The Agile Kitchen – or how I learned to cook Pancakes…

It all starts with an idea

“Alexa, how do I make pancakes?” This is how i normally start cooking pancakes. You might ask, why do i need Alexa for pancakes? Well, actually I don’t, but there are several nice recipes, that taste better than others. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all of them. So, I choose my favourite recipe, start by mixing the ingredients, heat up the pan and put the first ladle of dough into the pan.

My toolbox: we recently ordered a new induction hob and disposed the old hob. Currently we got a temporary hob, because we’re still waiting for the new hob to be delivered. The old hob had a scale from 1 to 10 (in arbitrary units) and I normally start cooking the pancake on a 5. Our current, temporary hub scales from 500 to 1500 watts.

Sprint #0

So, I started cooking my pancake with 1000 watts. I assumed, that it would be working in the same way as our previous one. 5 is in the middle of 1-10 and 1000 is in the middle of 500-1500. Well, you might guess it: my first pancake got burned and was black as coal. So, obviously the 1000 watts do not correspond to the 5 of the old hob.

Sprint #1

I don’t like burned pancakes, so, I lowered the heat to 800 watts, put another ladle of dough in the pan and started all over. The pancake was better, but still got a little bit burned right before the dough got firm.

Sprint #2

Well, i turned the heat to 500 watts, which led to a firm pancake, but it didn’t get that perfect brown colour. 500 watts were too low. Unfortunately, there was no step between 500 and 800 watts. In fact, the steps are – for whatever reason – unequally distributed over the complete range: 500 – 800 – 1000 – 1200 – 1500.

Sprint #3

Okay, next try. Starting on 500 watts, wait till the dough gets firm, switch to 800, carefully lift the pancake every few moments to see, how much colour it took.

Sprint #4

Well, it took me one more try to get my perfect pancake, which goes like this: start with 500 watts, wait till it gets firm, which is around 3 minutes (“Alexa, timer 3 minutes”), switch to 800 watts, wait exactly(!) one minute (“Alexa, timer 60 seconds”), switch back to 500, turn pancake, wait again for one minute.

Know your numbers

Well done, Marcus! So, here’s the result of baking pancakes:

  • First of all, I have a very detailed recipe for baking pancakes.
  • Before having the recipe with the exact timings, I used a try-n-error approach based on some simple assumptions to figure out, how to cook the perfect pancakes.
  • After each try, i had a test for my sprint-result (“Does the pancake look golden-brown?”).
  • I measured my timings, so I know exactly, how long it takes to bake a pancake. Now I can tell you exactly how long it takes to bake 6 pancakes or 600 pancakes.
  • It took me 4 sprints, to get the perfect pancake.
  • After 7 sprints I had a review with my wife (we had lunch), and all pancakes passed the QA, except the one, which was burned.

So, you might have noticed, I was baking these pancakes using an agile process. After each sprint I adjusted that process unit i had a perfect result. You might ask: The agile process was successful, so, the next time when you’re going to bake pancakes, will you use the same agile approach again? The answer is: No! As I now have a recipe with timings, I can exactly predict, what to do and how long it takes. It’s the perfect pancake recipe, so, I’ll definitely switch over to a simple Kanban-like process.

Well, almost …

Fun-fact: by the time of writing these lines, I got informed by my kitchen-dealer, that our newly ordered induction hob will arrive next week. So, my recipe with all that perfect timings will be worth nothing next week. The circumstances/requirements have changed in a way, that it doesn’t fit well with my process anymore. At least I can estimate that it will take me 4 tries in to build a new perfect-pancake-recipe.

BTW: the picture on top of this article is not a stock-photo, it’s a picture from the “review”.


By marcus

Software developer, engineer and architect.

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