Agile for beginners: How to bake a damn good cookie

Meet Angela and Laura. They are participating in a baking competition at school. They need to get the most votes on their cookie to win this competition.

  • Goal: bake a damn good cookie
  • Deadline: 1 month
  • Time available to dedicate to this activity: 5 hours a week, 20 hours total

Angela decides to embrace the Agile path while Laura sticks with the traditional way to achieve this goal.

The Traditional Way

Laura, being pressured to bake the perfect cookie, embarks on extensive research. The cookie has to be perfect!

She borrows baking books from the library.
She calls her granma and asks for all the best cookie recipes.
And, of course, there is the internet. Oh, the rabbit hole of baking videos and forums!

She spends the first week watching YouTube videos of people baking cookies. The YouTube algorithm always lures her in to watch just another video.

She spends the second week reading all the recipes she has collected from the library and her relatives. She gotta do her research!

She spends the third week talking to people and asking their opinion on what she should bake because she is overwhelmed with all the options she now has. Unfortunately, talking to people does not make it any easier to make a decision.

The Agile Way

Angela takes a different approach.

She decides that the only way she can make a damn good cookie is if she:

  1. bakes different cookies,
  2. give them to people,
  3. get their feedback, and
  4. incorporate this feedback to create the next batch of cookies 

On day one, she chooses one recipe and starts baking. Once she’s done baking, she gives her cookies to her family to try. 

She writes down their feedback and chooses the next recipe based on this feedback.

Next time, she bakes another batch of cookies. This time she gives them out to her neighbours and asks for their feedback. She writes it down.

And so she continues for the rest of the month. She adjusts her recipes based on the feedback she gets from people. And every time her cookies get better and better.

She is yet to watch a baking TV show or a YouTube video. She hasn’t borrowed any cookbooks from the library. She doesn’t have time. She is busy baking.

The only time she does research is to find the information she needs for her current baking session (e.g., converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, a good substitute for eggs when she doesn’t have enough, etc.).

The day before the bake sale

Ok, it’s time to bake the cookies!

Laura, being utterly overwhelmed with all the research and theory she consumed over the last 3 weeks, chooses a safe choice – her grandma’s chocolate chips cookies. It’s her first time baking these cookies. Since she hasn’t been practicing much baking, some of the cookies burn.

Angela, on the other hand, has baked at least 8 different cookies by this time. She knows how to prevent them from burning. She feels confident around the kitchen. But more importantly, she created her own unique recipe based on the feedback she got from all the people. It’s chewy on the inside. It has the toppings people loved the most. It smells delicious and stores well till the next day, making it a perfect cookie for a baking competition.


Angela confidently walks into the baking competition. She enjoyed experimenting with different recipes over the last month. It was fun for her. She found a new hobby and will continue baking in her free time.

Laura is frustrated with her burned cookies. On the other hand, she is glad that this is soon to be over. She spent last month in overwhelm and confusion trying to find that one perfect recipe. There is no way she is baking ever again!

People love Angela’s cookies and she wins the competition.

Agile cookie

How to bake a good cookie (or achieve your goal) the agile way

1. Get your hands dirty as soon as possible. Start making, building, cooking, writing, or selling as soon as possible.

2. Don’t go down the research rabbit hole. Remember, you can either be building or be watching other people build things to improve their life. Prioritize improving your life and start building.

3. Share your work with the world as soon as you can. Get real feedback from real people on your real product.

4. Don’t be stuck in your head. Don’t base your decisions on your speculations and assumptions about the world.

5. Embrace an experimental mindset. Treat every attempt as a data point. You are collecting data that will eventually lead you to the desired outcome.

6. Don’t try to build the perfect product. Nothing human-made is perfect. We are all just trying to incrementally improve things.

7. Just-in-time information vs just-in-case information. Research the things that you need for your current attempt.

8. Iterate based on the feedback that you get.

9. Ship again. Ship often.

10. Ask for feedback. Always.

11. Iterate.

12. Repeat till you get the winning combination.

If you need an easy step-by-step process for achieving your goals the agile way, I got you covered.

Plan and execute your first agile sprint.

Want more learn more about using Agile principles for personal productivity? Check out these posts:
  1. Why long-term planning is not as good as you were taught
  2. Strategies I used to finish my  master’s degree early
  3. Agile Home Renovation
  4. How I used Scrum to find a job and change career

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