Part II: Deconstructing the Agile Manifesto to Make Better Barbecue

Guest Derek Lane deconstructs the four value pairs of the Agile Manifesto and applies its lessons to making better barbecue.

Matthew D Edwards
October 27, 2021

Show Highlights

In this episode, Derek Lane and Matthew D Edwards dive into the Agile Manifesto word-by-word to help software developers and engineers bring more value to clients but also, become better barbecue pitmasters.

Key Takeaways

  • They are both “people sports.” Barbecue and software are meant for someone to enjoy it.
  • Mastery and knowledge wins over equipment every time.
  • Get the fundamentals down before scaling. However, you don’t have to understand all the fundamentals to make progress.
  • Be ready for the things that will get in the way before you even start. 
  • The best recipes (comprehensive documentation) adapt to what you have on hand.

Read the Transcript

0:00:00.0 M Edwards: D Lane and I picked up our deconstruction of the Agile Manifesto and how it relates to iteratively improving your barbecue. Yes, two of our favorite things, barbecue and Agile. So if you're trying to listen to this podcast on an empty stomach, maybe take the time to go get some barbecue so you can fully participate in the rest of this material. If you've missed the first two episodes in our series with Derek, I encourage you to go listen to episodes 15 and 16. 

0:00:39.2 D Lane: The way I know it's really good is you take one bite and you want to sit down and just have a party all by yourself. That's when I know I've done something, I've done something valuable, I've achieved some level of success that's beyond, "People can eat it", or, "Well, it's not that bad," but my brother-in-law's... No, you take one bite, you just sit down, you're like, "Okay, I need to sit down and enjoy this." This does not happen very often.


0:01:08.2 M Edwards: Welcome to The Long Way Around The Barn, where we discuss many of today's technology adoption and transformation challenges, and explore varied ways to get to your desired outcomes. There's usually more than one way to achieve your goals. Sometimes the path is simple, sometimes the path is long, expensive, complicated, and/or painful. In this podcast, we explore options and recommended courses of action to get you to where you're going now.

0:01:40.3 S3: The Long Way Around The Barn is brought to you by Trility Consulting. For those wanting to defend or extend their market share, Trility simplifies, automates, and secures your world your way. Learn how you can experience reliable delivery results, at

0:02:00.5 D Lane: If we start out with the Agile Manifesto, and the part most people are familiar with, and that's at, it says, "We're uncovering better ways of developing software." If I replace that, and say, "We're uncovering better ways of making barbecue by doing it and helping others do it," that sentence says so many things, and I have learned now, and I've adapted this to a lot of coaching, if I'm doing training to help people understand, I will take that sentence word by word and decompose it. There is so much meaning that just gets ignored, because we tend to focus on these four values that are in the middle of this page, and we tend to ignore the beginning and the end. But that sentence is powerful, especially when it comes to barbecue, because you will not become good, much less great, at barbecue unless you practice. And it is very difficult for you to practice on your own. You're always wanting to share stories, you want to say, "I tried this, what can I do here? Should the fat side be up? Should the fat side be down? Do I pull the membrane off the ribs?" There's a million things.

0:03:15.3 D Lane: "How much rub do I put on? What goes in the rub? Do I make my own rub? Do I buy my rub?" I mean, it's okay, which is the standard build-or-buy kind of decision that we have in technology all the time. So there's a lot of that learning curve that's really just encapsulated in that one sentence, that oftentimes gets skipped over in both the Agile and, in my case, the barbecue world. Through this work, we've come to value individuals' interactions over processes and tools. Barbecue is a people sport. This is not... I've seen... There's gadgets, there's people selling all kinds of... There's the biggest, the best smoker, there's the stainless steel that and the other. I will tell you that you can take a garbage can and a fire and somebody who knows what they're doing, they will outperform somebody with the most expensive equipment.

0:04:10.6 D Lane: So it's not about the equipment, it's not about the, "Do I have a wireless thing that talks to my phone to tell me when something reaches a certain temperature?" It's not about any of that. It's about the people. I value, in this case barbecue, over comprehensive documentation. As someone who did not have access to the internet, it wasn't available when I was learning, my learning curve was reading lots of books, reading from other barbecue experts, reading from people, and what I learned was...

0:04:38.3 D Lane: One of the things I learned was that there are a million ways to do it, and a lot of them will reach some level of success, but what I also learned was it that if you're going through the learning curve and you're at the beginning part, do not mix metaphors. Don't take something from what one person says and mix it with what something somebody else says, because you will not get a result; you don't understand why they did those two things in their own context, much less the ability to take them out and strategically tie them together, to cherry pick them. It just doesn't... It won't give you the results you're looking for. So if you find a book that you like, stick with that book, learn what that guy has to learn and then go to the next, or website, or whatever.

0:05:21.7 M Edwards: That's a really good callout there. I am young, or new, to raising cattle, and I have found that for every rancher out there, there is their own perspective or methodology on how to raise cattle. And I have found, perhaps similar to what you're saying then, that I need to thoroughly understand and implement the ideas as taught by one person first.

0:05:52.9 D Lane: Yeah, the same is true very much with Scrum and XP and all these other things, and I think that's one of the situations people find themselves in when they try to go either directly to something like the Scaled Agile framework, SAFe, if they try to... Or DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), or any of the other larger "scaling" frameworks, is that they didn't master the nuts and bolts of the simpler thing first. One of the things I often hear Agile coaches say is, "You need to walk before you run." And I was taught that years ago, and I learned that that's actually not correct. Biologically, that's not correct. The first thing a baby does is run. They don't run well, they fall, but they don't walk in a controlled manner. So the first thing, this idea that we crawl before we walk, we do crawl, there is this crawling thing, but we really don't go to walking, we go to running. There's this wobbly, I'm trying to catch myself, catch myself, and then I either fall or I grab a parent or the nearby object. And so that's not the same kind of running as we're seeing in the Olympics kind of thing, but of the common characteristics that we have that we share as humans, it's the closest to running. It's closer to running than it is walking, which is a very refined, controlled movement, or crawling.

0:07:26.2 D Lane: And so this idea that we go straight from crawling to walking is really incorrect, and we need to adjust how we adapt our learning models and things to that, as well.

0:07:40.0 M Edwards: But you've asserted about the Agile Manifesto is people kind of flow past the first sentence, and so you're saying, "Hey, in order to actually make use of this thing, we need to deconstruct this one sentence, one phrase, one segment at a time and understand what are its ripples, what are its implications?" And that's what you've been doing in order to map that out to tenets or behaviors or frameworks as it relates to barbecue. And one of the things I also want to call out that is important, is there are fundamentals. And so, for example, in order to be a musician, you need to understand the scales, you need to understand things like triads, you need to understand inversions; you need to understand fundamental things that says, "Hey, there's all these notes, and what are all of the notes in like the C scale?" Well, knowing the C scale is a fundamental.

0:08:34.5 M Edwards: Now, maybe not everybody tacitly knows that they know the C scale, dependent upon how they got into music, but in order to get from the fundamentals to there, they had to first know the fundamentals. And your point, I believe was, "Hey, you could pick up Scaled Agile Framework, 'cause that would be fun and amazing," but it assumes that you understand some of the most fundamental behaviors that exist. And this entire Agile conversation, Agile as, body of knowledge or set of collective ideas, which is, "Hey, how does a team operate?" And then after that, you're building up, and then sell similarly, then I think that what you're illustrating is the same thing with barbecue is, there's the build versus buy.

0:09:20.6 M Edwards: What are the most fundamental things you absolutely have to know and understand. And I love that you called out that somebody who actually understands the art of what they're doing makes the mechanism or the medium pretty much irrelevant at that point.

0:09:37.0 D Lane: I think another thing that was in there that I didn't specifically bring out is, it's one thing to understand the mechanics, the fundamentals, and you don't have to understand all the fundamentals to make progress, there's this idea that we're constantly learning, that we should evolve. When we get to the principles, we'll talk about this principle of emergence, and I don't know how much time we would have to spend on that. But the idea that over time the best ideas, the best options, are going to emerge. As I learn... Your ability to play music progresses as I learn more fundamentals. The thing that is fascinating to me that I can correlate to music is that when you learn one instrument, now you go try to learn a second one. There are things that will translate and there are things that will not.

0:10:30.4 D Lane: The fundamentals of music will transfer, but the way you play one instrument, the way you play another instrument, even if they're very similar instruments, could be drastically different in order for that instrument to achieve what it is uniquely created to do. And that is no different with Agile or with Lean. If you're going to do something and you learn the Eric Ries Lean Startup approach to something, that's great; in there, he has a lot of connectors to other fundamental mechanisms. You could use Lean UX, if you like, but they would all still work with this premise of that, I'm gonna build, measure, learn; that I'm gonna build a hypothesis, I'm gonna figure out how am I gonna test the hypothesis, I'm actually going to test the hypothesis, I'm gonna look at the answers and say, "Do I need to pivot or persist?" 

0:11:28.5 D Lane: This is true here, this is true with barbecue. The same thing is absolutely true. I need the fundamentals, I need to learn, "Okay, if I'm going to cook and this is the way I did it, brisket, I need to quit switching and cooking different things every weekend; I need to cook brisket every weekend, until I get some level of acceptable... Basically a release." I need to get to the point where it's repeatable, and the thing we're going to eat we're actually looking forward to. And so, across any of these mediums, the principles and the patterns are the same. And kind of the extension of that, which you alluded to, was that these things are related. We can learn the fundamentals in each of these areas, but they're all related.

0:12:19.1 D Lane: The next value is customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Lots of times we are so specific in barbecue, we are trying to follow this recipe the way that it's written, to the line. My mom, my grandma, all the women in my family are great cooks. If I ask them for a recipe, they will have to stare off into space for a while to remember what they did, 'cause none of them use a recipe. Well, how can they be such great cooks and never use a recipe? Well, because they don't always have the same ingredients, because they need to adjust, they need to adapt. Well, gee, doesn't that sound like every day in building a product? So the idea of, we're constantly figuring out what it is, if I've got a barbecue recipe and I find out that someone's allergic to curry...

0:13:10.3 D Lane: Well, if I've got a curry in the one of my dry rubs, I need to know, "Okay, I need to adapt." If I've already used it on something, I need to tell them, "Don't eat that." If I'm making a rub, and one of the things I've learned is I want to find out what people want before they're gonna come over to eat. And if there's an allergy, if there's something that they don't like the taste of, then I'm going to adjust to try to incorporate... To make this a good experience. Now we're back to valuing and respecting people over, "Well, this is just how I do it. These are award-winning ribs. How dare you tell me... Just don't eat the ribs." I'm like, "No, no, no, can we make some good ribs for this person, too? Doesn't that demonstrate a level of skill that's beyond the fact that you came up with a recipe that is repeatable?" And I'm not saying that's not... That's a level of achievement, but let's go beyond that.

0:14:06.0 M Edwards: That's a real good callout, and we do see that parallel in technology ranks on a regular basis, where someone may illustrate or suggest, "I have created; everyone else needs to accept," or, "This is what I think, and because of my title, therefore, I have now given you what you need to think." So we see those types of things in the technology space on a regular basis, which probably maps out to the unlimited... The agility conversation that you have in terms of servant leadership, which seems to be still the same level of service, when you're saying, "Hey, it's not enough to be predictable, repeatable, and make great meat. I need to be able to create based on what's available to me for the people that I'm going to interact with, so I can bring value to them in a way that they value." As opposed to, "I have made these, eat them, serve me, leave the money in the jar at the door."

0:15:11.8 D Lane: Yeah. The idea... At the point at which... This is one of those kind of reality checks. At the point at which you think you have become a master, that's the point at which someone needs to help you understand you're not even close.

0:15:29.0 M Edwards: I have received that serving of crow many times in my career. [laughter]

0:15:32.4 D Lane: Many times. As have I. So there have been many times where I've gone into a new project or something, and I've got all the answers, I know exactly what to do, I've mapped it all out in my head, I put it on the whiteboard, I created a PowerPoint, whatever I needed to do to prove to someone that I had it all figured out, I had all the answers. Only to, obviously, quickly learn that I not only didn't have all the answers, I didn't have all the facts, I didn't have all the information. And now we gotta do a value number four, responding to change, but I didn't even deal with change yet. I'm just saying that's a whole other thing, is that now we've gotta deal with change over following a plan. This is the one most people tend to focus on, because it's the thing that is the easiest to see, it's the easiest to identify with, especially in business.

0:16:19.0 D Lane: Responding to change in the context of barbecue comes in, again, in lots of different ways, but one of the more common ways it comes in is in fire management. The level of smoke that your particular smoker is going to put out has... Any of the great barbecue folks will tell you what was called clean smoke. Clean smoke looks more like, if you've just driven...

0:16:46.6 D Lane: Let's say you've driven your vehicle for an hour and it's 100 degrees outside, and you park your vehicle in the driveway, and you go outside and the vehicle's turned off and you just look at the hood. You will see the waves of heat that are rising, because it's hot outside, it's hot, and it's even hotter on the engine, but the difference in temperature now is closer, so you're seeing those waves as the transfer of energy happens. Now, when we go to barbecue and we're dealing with smoke, that's what clean smoke looks like. Sometimes it's even called blue smoke, 'cause it'll come out a really soft, it'll look a little blue, it can look blue or grey. But the darker it is, the thicker it is, that's what you don't want. What that means is they haven't cleaned the pit in 20 years.


0:17:34.0 D Lane: That's really what that means. Because their belief is that if they cleaned it, it would no longer have the ability to produce the same level of food. So there's things like that that you learn over time, which is you need to keep your smoker clean. That doesn't mean shiny, we're not talking about military boots here, we're talking about removing debris. Now, translate that to Agile. Is there such a... Can you imagine something that would be considered debris when we're trying to apply Agile principles or values?

0:18:11.6 M Edwards: I just thought it'd be perhaps classified as friction in a continuous flow-based process. Like you're able to achieve this goal with this number of steps, this number of actions, and then someone may have proactively inserted some type of quality process, inspection process. Or it's a conversation of how many steps does it actually take; for example, with Amazon, what's the fewest number of key clicks it takes to separate you from your wallet? Well, their answer is one. [laughter]

0:18:43.5 D Lane: Yes. They've been able to get it down to one.


0:18:48.8 D Lane: So I've seen this a lot of times where some of that debris could be a disbelief by the people that I'm there to help, I'm here to help teach them, whatever... Or coach or whatever. Or I'm on the team and I'm there trying to be a contributor. But they don't believe it when management came and said, "We're going to adopt this approach." Or, "We're going to move in this direction." Why don't they believe it? Because the last time management said that they changed it or the last time they bought into it... There was a situation where I was coaching a team, they were going through a transformation, they really didn't have to deal with a lot of the typical organizational cross-dependencies that happen in large organizations that were relatively separated, and after several months we were able to make progress with everybody except for this one team member, and I couldn't figure out what was going on, so finally I sat down, I was able to get them off to the side and talk to 'em, I said, "What's going on? You seem to be really enjoying this. Oh yes. This is fun. This is great, this is exciting. Why are you still doing these things the way you've always done them?"

0:20:03.7 D Lane: "Well, because last time we did this and did something like this, and I followed what my leader said, I ended up losing, I got docked for vacation, I ended up getting penalized, I end up getting... " Oh, okay, well, that's some debris that's in the way of this individual being able to believe what their management is saying, the management saying two different things, and you know which one they're believing, they're believing the one that the reward system is attached to. And this is a fundamental... This is a hidden thing, and it's hidden in most people's smokers too, because they don't know that periodically, you've gotta go in there and it's not just weeping out the ashes of the wood at burn, you need to check the chimney, you need to check a few other things, the smoke exhaust, whatever it is, there's some places you need to check for some things that might be hidden, they're not obvious, they're not in front of you, they're not on the checklist.

0:21:02.2 M Edwards: So that seems to map out to a couple of different things. Working software over comprehensive documentation. The way I'm interpreting the things you're saying suggest that, yeah, there's a plan, but there's some additional things that don't get documented, more communicated that you need to be aware of and you'll discover and you'll need to figure out how to adapt to, and then responding to change over following a plan, that idea also perhaps maps, which is, "Hey, I didn't plan to have to clean things today," or "I didn't think I was gonna get black smoke today," or "What the heck has taken so long, what did I do wrong?" I mean, responding to change is, I have a plan, but, oh my gosh, this happened. And many people just call that Murphy's Law, which is, "I've got a plan, and then things are going to happen and I need to adapt to that," so I like the illustration of, "Get on the bull and you're gonna take the ride that's given."

0:22:00.7 D Lane: Yeah, that's definitely true. A more common one with barbecue is, is that no matter what the weatherman says for five days in advance, you're sure it's gonna be 75 and nothing, you get out there and it's 42 and wind or... I've run my smoker in every condition there is, snow on the ground, ice on the ground, and a matter of fact, I think that was probably one of the longest smokes I've ever had was a 20-something hours with a smoker during the winter time when it's snowing, and it's blowing snow. Try to keep your fire lit then, where normally you gotta check it every 30 to four, five minutes. You kinda have to babysit it. So the ability to adapt to that which you're given is, just the expectation of that, in my mind, is a degree of mastery, the acknowledgement and awareness is one, but the expectation of it. I expect things to change. I expect it to, I'm not saying I'm not planning for success, that's not at all what I'm saying, I am planning for success, but I am ready for the things that will get in my way before I get there.

0:23:18.2 M Edwards: That's a great call. A great tenet, a behavioral tenet, if you will, which is anticipate, even invite change. And so part of the value and the whole point of an iteration isn't just to deliver, it's to also gain feedback so that you can make whatever you delivered even more valuable as you go along, so to iterate, "I delivered this, now with your feedback, I can deliver this better and better," and so on. So the idea of iterative delivery makes a lot of sense. Responding to change doesn't mean, to your point, I'm planning to fail. What it means is I have a plan, and now, oh client, I've delivered this, I invite you to give me feedback that might require some change, and you know what, I'm okay with that, because I want to deliver something that matters to you, which goes all the way back to one of your original arguments was, "Hey, why don't you talk to the people in advance of picking the meat and doing the meat and delivering the meat, 'cause maybe they wanted bell peppers."

0:24:26.0 D Lane: Right. And to expand on the idea in iterative barbecue, when you start, at least for me, most people start with one thing again, with a brisket or with ribs, they're gonna cook one thing. Now, I've got a couple of different smokers, I've got one that I can cook for 150, 200 people on. When I cook, it's going to be... I'm gonna cook a lot of stuff. Now, the point here is to say that I will schedule... This is my plan. I will schedule the order in which I'm going to put things on the smoker, something will always go wrong because it wasn't prepped because it wasn't... Because I didn't have the rub made, because I forgot something, because an ingredient ran out, I didn't expect to use this ingredient in three different things, and something happened and I didn't have enough. There is always going to be something. So my schedule, my plan, basically the order in which I'm going to put things on so that I know what order they're going to come off, that's one set of change, I have to adapt to. The other set of changes is that I cannot control fire, I can't control chemistry, there will be something that will need to come off early, and there will be something that we'll probably need to stay on there, the 30 minutes or an hour to be at the level of done that I'm looking for.

0:25:55.0 D Lane: There's a lot of principles in barbecues that are all over the Internet, like 3-2-1 for ribs. The idea that you're gonna put them in there, put some ribs on the smoker for three hours, then you're gonna take them off and wrap 'em and put 'em back on for two hours, then you're gonna take them off and let them sit in a warmer for one hour, that 3-2-1 method is very popular and I've used it, it's a great set of training wheels to get started with, but a thermometer is better.


0:26:34.2 M Edwards: And that may be a learned thing.

0:26:36.8 D Lane: It is a learned thing. I have learned, I trust the thermometer. I've met people, I've gone to restaurants where they have a pit master who can literally touch a piece of meat, they can touch anything that they're used to cooking, that they put on their pit, no matter how big their pit is, they know the hot spots, the cold, they can touch it, and they will be able to tell you how much longer it has or whether it's done, that's a level of... Like a magician, there's a level of mastery there that very few of us are ever gonna attain, so I'm perfectly happy to stick with the thermometer. I trust the thermometer. When the thermometer is not working, I get another one. It doesn't hurt to have two or three... If you're concerned, you don't get two or three opinions on something, it wouldn't be any different than we would tell a team if we didn't know the answer and they didn't know the answer, let's get two or three opinions, let's find out, let's don't just always listen to one person.

0:27:33.9 M Edwards: One of the parallels that I have heard from you, you may not have said exactly or explicitly like this is part of the manifesto itself, is suggesting that we have a plan, we have one or more sets of patterns, we have people, we have intent, goal, we have all of the things, but the responding to change part illustrates the fact that even though we've done all of the things, things are still going to happen that we didn't plan or may happen different than anticipated, and our responsibility is just to adapt. I have the framework, I have the training, I have the tool. Everything will work exactly the way I've said it to. And if it doesn't, it's probably a people problem and that person needs to get back in line, and it's an interesting contradiction between the way life actually is and the way we want it to be when we're at work or when we're doing planning, which is order. I control all of the squares in this waffle, no syrup will leave each of the squares, they will all stay in their squares, they will be evenly distributed, and this will be a gorgeous waffle, that's just not the way it works.

0:28:53.2 M Edwards: And so this desire to say, I want my cost of acquisition to be exactly what you said it would be, and I want my cost of ownership to be exactly what you said it would be. And then to discover along the way that there were second and third order dependencies or ripples that required change, and then adaptation, is an irritant. "Well, that's not what you said. So you must not know what you're talking about."

0:29:16.7 D Lane: I think you've got it. We assume or we infer that if we know, the level of confidence is directly related to what we feel we know ahead of time, but none of us know the future. We know, none of us know the future, but we all expect that the degree of expertise that someone has is directly related to their ability to tell the future, and that is a completely insane connection to make, and yet in business, it is made every day, all day long. Yes, you can make an educated guess depending on if you've done this in how long, but now that's assuming that the playing field didn't change, that's assuming that you don't have a new competitor, that's assuming that the market didn't change. We're making a lot of assumptions there. The speed of change, the pace of change that's happening now is directly impactful to your ability to tell the future. When you or I were around a couple of decades ago, you have several years to adapt, there are companies. They've been around for 50 to 100 years or maybe even longer, they are still under the impression they have a couple of years, several years to adapt.

0:30:40.9 D Lane: If that were true, then it would not be possible to literally go from a napkin idea to having a business up and running in 48 hours or less and actually taking money and selling something or doing something. If they set their sights on your market and they are listening to their customers, they will beat you every time.

0:31:00.8 M Edwards: I think it's outstanding, I love that. The common denominator there is people, people, people, people, and your point is have a plan, love the people, be involved with the people, engage the people, provide to the people, and then map across, make sure that you respond to the context of the change. I love that part. One of the things I'd like to know is, do you have any final thoughts for us on how this all comes together in one package, and then what is your favorite kind of meat to grill or... I'm sorry to barbecue.

0:31:34.7 D Lane: I guess the thing I've mentioned is, is from my standpoint, we only made it through half of the manifesto, we made it through the four values. The 12 principles are just as important. From my perspective, one of the things I've learned about the manifesto, the way I look at it is these are two sides to the same coin. You will not be able to achieve one side without the other side, as far as my favorite thing to put on the smoker, if it's a short smoke, if you want to go less than four hours or less, it's hard to beat catfish.

0:32:08.8 M Edwards: Wow, that already sounds amazing.

0:32:10.3 D Lane: A lot of people would never thought about putting... 'Cause it's not the kind of thing you get at a lot of restaurants, but the first time I put a... And it doesn't matter what kind of fish, but here in the South, it's a little easier to find catfish, and so you put some catfish fillets on there, you don't need a lot of seasoning, and you make sure that they do not get over the fire as they will burn too quickly

0:32:34.6 M Edwards: I look forward to more of our conversations here after, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about what you see and hear your journey, the barbecue, the manifesto, and we'll figure out where we're going from here. Thank you, Derek.

0:32:47.5 D Lane: Oh, thank you, Matthew, it's been great.

0:32:53.5 M Edwards: In our next episode, we continue talking barbecue, and we tackle how the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto are really a roadmap to becoming a barbecue pitmaster.


0:33:10.8 S3: The Long Way Around The Ban is brought to you by Trility Consulting, where Mathew serves as the CEO and president. If you need to find a more simple, reliable path to achieve your desired outcomes, visit

0:33:27.0 M Edwards: To my listeners, thank you for staying with us. I hope you were able to take what you've heard today and apply it in your context so that you're able to realize the predictable repeatable outcomes you desire for you, your teams, the company, and clients. Thank you.