I had an amazing first-hand experience recently, I watched the Agile Method working in a real-life non-development situation. Of course, this is nothing new, Agile has been applied across wide and varying environments like High School classrooms and Government. It was an eye opening experience to watch as events unfold, decisions were made, and actions were taken. Word of caution, this post is part rant about the crappy vacation my family had and part “Wow! Agile works even when we’re not trying”. I will not be offended if you bail early.

Planning a Vacation

Several weeks before our vacation we started planning. What did we want to take? What do we need to take? How much stuff can we fit in our car? How long will the kids last in the car? How far can we drive if the kids are asleep? The usual stuff. We wrote lists of things to pack, vague agendas, deadlines, and few actions to take immediately.

Packing and Leaving

As our departure grew closer we translated our lists into tasks. We packed our bags (clothes, towels, toys, books, etc) and scaled back on a lot of the things on the list. Usually, we throw our full-size toiletries in our bags but we knew we had a significant space constraint this year, my wife replaced her full-size SUV with a smaller crossover. We diligently considered every item on the list, when we knew we needed it we used a travel sized container. Between scaling back on clothes, towels, toys, and toiletries we were able to fit everything for a ten-day beach vacation into half the cargo space.

Evacuation #1

As we were leaving, my wife checked the weather and saw the hurricane forecast. This worried us and bummed us out. Who wants to take their two kids to the beach so they can play inside while it rains? We carried on thinking the storm was so far away, within seven days it could change course, reduce in strength, or slow down. All of which would result in a long, delightful vacation at the beach.

We left Friday night because we have two small kids and driving four to five hours is brutal unless they’re sleeping. Plus, we planned an extra couple of days at the beach in Virginia since our rental didn’t start till Sunday. All the while my wife kept a close eye on the hurricane. It was still too far away to know what was going to happen. Our time on the beach Saturday and Sunday morning was nothing short of great, perfect weather, perfect water, and more sandcastles than I can remember. After lunch, we set out for the Outer Banks.

When we arrived, we quickly settled in, hung out with our family, and had dinner. Later that evening, my wife and I took a breath and checked the hurricane again. It had become clear it would make landfall on the southeastern US coastline but we still didn’t know when or how strong it would be.

Monday was the turning point. We woke early, our kids have a knack for getting up early on the weekend and sleeping in during the week when they have to go to school. Vacation might as well have been the weekend for them. We ate breakfast, got our swimsuits on, and hit the pool around ten o’clock.

Around lunchtime, we took a break, ate some food, and it hit us. Hurricane Florence was upgraded to category 4, 130-150 mph winds, and would make landfall somewhere between the Carolina’s. Dare County, the next county south of us, issued evacuation orders. We tried to shake it off as best we could. Maybe it was an overreaction, maybe the local officials would change their minds. In denial, I returned to playing with the kids for the rest of the day.

By dinner, Currituck County issued a statement, all vacationers must evacuate the island by eight Tuesday morning. We ate dinner while discussing options. Leaving Monday night would mean the kids would sleep and we might avoid most of the traffic. My wife and I were bummed about the whole situation and felt bad bringing our kids all this way for a single day of fun. Thinking on her feet, my wife suggested we get a hotel further north to avoid the evacuation and get a couple days back. And like that, we jumped on it. A little more than 24 hours into our vacation, we repacked and left our vacation rental but we had a backup plan.

Evacuation #2

It was late when we arrived at the hotel in Virginia so we got everyone to bed as quickly as we could. The next morning I went in search of breakfast and found most of the town closed. This seemed odd to me until I walked into the hotel lobby and the manager stopped me to tell me Virginia had ordered an evacuation of the coastline. Defeated, I returned to the hotel room and told my wife. In search of one last option, we chose to take the kids to the beach for as long as we could. We packed a lunch, left for the beach, and didn’t come back till two o’clock. Fortunately, the kids were so exhausted, especially my two year old since we skipped her nap, packing up the car and leaving went smoothly.

Agile for the Win

I realize most of this post is a rant about hurricanes, unpredictability, and the crappy situation my family and I faced on our vacation. It’s also a great real-world example of project planning, adjusting to feedback, and changing circumstances. We started planning our September vacation in June, we couldn’t predict a hurricane, it’s strength or path. We kept moving forward with the information we had. As we learned the hurricane’s strength and path we adjusted our plans to make the best of a difficult situation. As a Software Engineers, we face the same type of situations all the time. Implementing a feature doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, a customer finds a bug in production, or a web server dies without warning. Sure, we plan as best as we can to avoid these situations but we can’t plan for everything and when they happen we have to quickly adjust, solve the problem, and get back on track. In my family’s situation, we ultimately had to call it quits, head back home but we made the most of the situation and still had fun. Now, we’re planning a short getaway for the fall or winter to make up for it.