…Agile / Lean Virtues

One of Benjamin Franklin’s favorite inventions is one you may never have heard of: The Art of Virtue. Briefly, Franklin conceived of 13 virtues that he sought to perfect in himself, but soon realized that he couldn’t improve all of them at once.  So, he hit upon the idea of focusing on each for a week at a time. Thus, in 3 months time, each of the virtues would be exercised, and each would get the focus four times a year.

When you or your team adopt Agile / Lean, the same challenge arises — if you try to focus on everything at once, you’ll very likely fail. So set your team up for success: focus on one virtue at a time. Start each day reminding yourself of this week’s focus, and review progress at the end of each day.  Focus doesn’t mean you’ll stop working on the others entirely: like Franklin’s personal virtues, the virtues of Agile / Lean are synergistic: they support each other. And the habits you begin to form working on one virtue will (we hope!) survive to strengthen the others.

This blog is intended to expose Agile / Lean virtues in a way that encourages experimentation and focus. And although software development is my primary concern, most of the virtues are much more widely applicable. Many of the specific practices are also more widely adaptable. If you find anything useful in other areas of application, please let me know – everybody loves war stories and anecdotes.

Also, don’t get hung up on the number 13.  Agility is ultimately about adapting any practice so that it serves you, and I expect to write about more than 13 virtues.  So pick the ones that appeal to you and your team as offering the best potential return, or start with 13 and adjust up or down to suit.

Each article reflects decades of product development experience as an individual contributor, a technical leader, an educator, and a consultant, as well as applied studies of  “the masters.” But I hope readers will add their own insights, stories, practices, and ideas as well.  If you do, please observe Franklin’s virtue of Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself.” And if there’s a topic you’d like discussed, please check the Backlog and add it as a comment there — I can’t write about everything at once, so I’ll focus on one at a time. You’re also welcome to comment on order of items in the Backlog, I’ll adjust to meet your needs if I can.

About Me

My formal name is Edward C Horvath, but call me Ned.  I trained in Computer Science at MIT and Princeton, and have taught CS and Software Engineering at several universities, but the bulk of my career has been writing software, leading teams who are struggling to write software, and consulting with various teams  – including but not limited to  software development teams. You can see more details at my LinkedIn page.


Too many to mention, so I’ll mention them in the postings as we go. However, I want to thank Tom Cassidy and Angela Loeb for introducing me to Franklin’s Art of Virtue, which inspired me to start this blog. Check our their site at 13×4.com for more. And I must acknowledge W. Edwards Deming, the man who started it all. We are all forever in his debt.

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