#agile road trip

As I was driving home last night from work, I thought of another analogy on why the Agile process works so well.

Trip to California

I thought back to my trip to California and how I went about planning and taking the trip. I planned the trip really at four levels:

1) Starting and Ending Points – Where was I starting from and where was I trying to get to?

2) Route – What major roads would I take?

3) Stops – Where would I stop along the way for rest, meals and recharging?

4) Detailed Directions – How to I get to routes, stops, and the end point.


When I thought about how I planned and took the trip, I confirmed the end point first. I chose the end point based upon what I wanted from a relaxing trip. Next I reviewed the possible routes and confirmed the routes very early on. These routes were chosen based upon some different criteria or requirements; speed, scenery, landmarks, and others. When it came to the stops, I did something interesting. I planned out the potential stops based on the distance travelled but only reserved the stops for the next day. (and I really only reserved meal stops two hours in advance) I figured that things may change on the trip and I may make better or worse time. No sense booking hotel rooms too early. Last responsible moment right? And then finally for the detailed directions, I again planned the potential directions at a high level, but only confirmed detailed directions for the next day. No sense about worrying when to turn left in Palm Desert when I am in Idaho right?

Looking back, I see that the road trip models an Agile project very well:

1) Starting and Ending Points – Business Value – what am I trying to achieve?

2) Route – Solution Architecture

3) Stops – Iterations/Features

4) Detailed Directions – User Stories


I can’t think of taking a trip any other way? Why would I spend time detailing and confirming the directions to a pancake house in Boise when I’m at my front door? It also saved a huge amount of rework as I consulted local highway authorities at the start of each day and avoided roads I had planned to take. Since I was travelling in iterations, there were no hotels rooms and reservations to cancel.

And then I made one really neat observation. At the end of every day I reviewed the map and route I travelled as compared to what I planned. I guess these were my first retrospectives. Once this was complete I planned my next day’s travel.

I really like this analogy and I think I’ll continue using it. 🙂


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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