Agile Forest

Find your path to agility with Renee Troughton

The 1670 saying by John Ray’s A collection of English proverbs

The early bird catcheth the worm

is well understood by many. The phrase conjures up a picture of birds sleeping and waiting whilst the one that leaves it’s nest early to scourge for food will be more likely to succeed in having a full stomach. catch-the-worm-early-bird

But take a step back and think it through a little. Is there a higher likelihood of worms the earlier a bird rises? What are the other birds doing? Does getting up earlier mean a longer duration of scouting ability unimpeded by competition?

Worms don’t have eyes and hence do not detect the rise and fall of the day. In this respect the worms are always there, it is merely the availability of sunlight that enables the worm to be detected. Where I live there seems to be an abundance of worms after rainfall, otherwise it is slim pickings.

I think the essence of the proverb is really about competition and that engaging an activity with reduced competition has a higher likelihood of success.

It made me think about the submissions process on a number of conferences like Agile Australia. A few weeks ago I got together with the other stream reviewers that we have in The Basics stream. We spent time pouring over the submissions made to date, trying to get to a similar set of assessment conditions and talking about the feedback that we would give. We have a great opportunity in this stream to give awesome feedback as for the very first time all reviewers are in the same city so we can physically meetup on a regular basis and communicate in a very Agile way.

The number of submissions to date in both this stream, and even the conference overall, have been trickling in. I know what happens after seeing it year after year – most of the submissions come in the last week. Whether this is because people are waiting to see if they can submit on a niche topic or because everyone used to be the sort of people in high school that would do their assignments at the eleventh hour (yes I was one of those people too), it discombobulates me that we do this in the Agile community.

It discombobulates me in two ways –

  1. Agile is based upon early delivery and fast feedback cycles. If any community in the world should cherish being the early bird and getting rapid feedback it should be us – and yet most submissions come in the last two days.
  2. We, as reviewers can give much more considered and thoughtful feedback the earlier we see the submission. The more feedback you get…. guess what – the more opportunities you have to course correct the submission. The more opportunities you have to course correct the submission – the more likely you are going to be hitting the target of what the reviewers are looking for. The more likely you are going to be hitting the target of what the reviewers are looking for – the greater the opportunity to make it into the short list to present.

And so, I plead with you – if you are keen to present in Agile Australia, please submit now and not in the last week!

2 thoughts on “The early bird and the worm

  1. The second mouse gets the cheese?

    Your problem description contains the solution (well, a possible solution, out of many possible solutions) as well – move the submission deadline forward, creating a greater gap between the deadline and the conference, and use that time for a better review & refinement process. After all, you don’t want to be like a project manager who schedules an obligatory 4 weeks of test time at the end of the project, and no time to fix (and re-test) the bugs found in the last week…

    1. Great suggestion. It was an idea that was floated among the chairs a few days ago. The Washington Agile conference also handles it by incentivising early submitters – ie you only get feedback before a certain date.

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