Vacuum cooking as a metaphor for agile development

Sous-vide is an interesting way of cooking. It’s not new – according to the Wikipedia, sous-vide (pronounced soo-veed, meaning “under vacuum”) was invented in 1799. Since we’re quoting from the Wikipedia, might as well keep going:

Sous-vide is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time—72 hours in some cases—at an accurately determined temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 60 °C (140 °F). The intention is to cook the item evenly, and to not overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same “doneness,” keeping the food juicier.

You don’t need special sous-vide tools or appliances to use this cooking method. You can prepare the water bath using a big soup pot, a gas or electric cooktop and a cooking thermometer. You can use any old vacuum sealer to prepare the ingredients. In fact, you can just use a zipper baggie and squeeze out the air by hand. Getting a perfect vacuum isn’t essential, not if you’re going to prepare and consume the food right away.

As long as you keep the temperature hot enough to stop the food from spoiling (you don’t want any nasty bacteria to grow), sous-vide does a great job of cooking. Go ahead, give it a try this weekend. You might want to pick up a cookbook, though, at your local store – there are dozens, ranging from inexpensive titles like “Easy Sous Vide” to Nathan Myhrvold’s magnum opus, the US$625 “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.” At a mere 2,400 pages, Myhrvold’s book is definitely not casual beach reading.

You can certainly try out sous-vide cooking using a soup pot. But if you try it, and decide to add this technique to your kitchen repertoire, you might find it easier with specialized tools. For examples, there are water baths designed to circulate the water while keeping it at a consistent temperature that’s hot enough to kill bacteria. Over the past few years, a sous-vide industry has taken off, with products ranging from specialized vacuum sealers to ovens to thermometers to the VacMaster Dry Piston Pump Chamber Machine.

Agile software development is like cooking sous-vide. Agile methodologies don’t require special tools on the desktop or on the server – in fact, the Agile Manifesto explicitly states that agility means valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Just like not every kitchen needs a dry-piston pump chamber machine, there’s no commandment that requires your team to choose an agile ALM tool suite with integrated project management, a Scrum countdown timer, stakeholder reports, user story repository or backlog groomer.

But you know, if you’re serious about sous-vide, you’ll want tools optimized for that purpose. And if you’re into agile, you’ll want tools that help you by removing friction and facilitating interactions. Zesty!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *