The Agile Mind of Bruce Lee

For whatever reason I recently ended up reading a bunch of Bruce Lee quotes and more I think of them, more it seems that he truly adopted the agile mentality. Agile is a state of mind, attitude, set of values to live and work by. You can do everything by the book, but no set of techniques or methods is enough, you have to be agile. Bruce Lee applied this very same mindset to martial arts with great success.

SCRUM paved the way for wide array of different methods that are labelled as agile. As with anything, debate emerged what was better and what was truly agile. Even agile leader entered a heated debate over kanban and scrum everyone totally missing the point. Key concept in agile is adaptation and Bruce Lee was down with that:

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”  

He famously combined traditional Chinese martial arts with western boxing. He was the first true mixed martial artist. He also discarded lot of formality, scripted movements and rituals that he didn’t find useful. His goals was effectiveness.

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

This is precisely what agile professionals do, it doesn’t matter what it’s called as long as it works. Other one of the key foundations of agile is the continuous inspect and adapt cycle.

“Be happy, but never satisfied.”

You should be happy, but never satisfied because there is always something you can do better. There is always room for improvement. That is the true Kaizen spirit. Agile methods differ from traditional methods in being less dependant on up front planning. Less surprisingly Bruce Lee had similar thoughts:

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

This is just the same message about not overanalyzing nor spending too much time writing specifications before getting your hands dirty.

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

This is the kind of people you would want to hire, people who get to the job and even more done instead of just talking about it.

“If you don’t want to slip up tomorrow, speak the truth today.”

Visibility and eagerness to tackle any problems as soon as they surface is another key concept of lean. We should have the courage to speak up when we spot a problem and confront them as soon as possible.

Lee was always very carefully studying his own shortcomings.  Lesser known fact about Lee is that he also trained judo with an Olympic level judoka, he identified his own lack of understanding about throws and grappling and did study them to great extend. This kind of self inspection agilist do continuously by themselves and also as a group in retrospectives.

In the heart of agile is the adaptation. True agilist always finds a way around the problems and thrives to find solutions to what ever circumstances he faces. What could be more agile approach than what Bruce Lee famously said about water:

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Could it be that this certain mindset is actually the recipe for success. Do all great minds think along the same lines.

All the quotes were picked from here:

Posted on 13/02/2012, in Agile. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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