Tag Archive for: Soapbox

Agile Design

Product as a Story


Time is an Ingredient


Our company is named Amaryllis Software. It began, strangely enough, when I heard the word in a song and liked it, and my partner didn’t object. We both felt that the name didn’t immediately associate with anything else, so we could carve our own identity in the world, and the idea of a flower blooming was a trait we wanted to parallel.

When I saw photos of an amaryllis, however, memories stirred in me that were long forgotten. Indeed, it took several months for them fully to surface.

Not much of a botanist, I had no idea what an amaryllis looked like. As I saw a variety of images, however, as we experimented with our website, it reminded me of times with my grandfather, an amazing gardener, among other things, and likely the source of all the “people-person” genes I’ve seemed to inherit. He was amazing with people. I’ll be brief, however, with the introspection. I don’t want this to sound like a recipe blog.

As it turns out, amaryllis is a great analogy for software and product design, and a whole bunch of other things that happen in life that take patience and care. Though the bulb can live for decades, an amaryllis bulb blooms once per year. They appear dormant from the outside for most of the year, though in reality they are growing deeper roots and preparing to blossom.

Grandad had an Amaryllis bulb that he would nurture in a pot in the garage, I’m pretty sure one of us gave it to him as a gift, and we always hoped it would bloom in time for Christmas so we could place it in the family room.

Once the time has come to grow, things happen quickly, The single leaf that appears in week one, quickly becomes several over the net few weeks, and the stems expand in parallel, the narrow shape of the buds forming at the apex of each stalk. By week 12, with some good fortune, the buds develop into beautiful blooms, spectacular displays of color and structure.

To me, this is a great analogy for how I support my development teams when we want to produce something new. We start with a sense of purpose. The problem we need to solve, the product we want to produce.

We shelter the team, allowing them to develop and learn, with minimal results available externally, though the shape begins to form internally. Input is required, of course, not the sun and water required for plants (though we need these as well), likewise not the pizza and Mountain Dew of stereotypes, but a mixture of information and feedback, guidance and pruning of scope.

All of the steps in the process are designed to run in parallel, largely independently, so the team can produce something special in the end, for all to see and admire.