Full Minimalist Life

I have been bitten.

By the ‘minimalism’ bug.

Now all my paragraphs will be one-phrase sentences.

Only kidding!

(I have a 1.5-year-old, so we borrowed Taro Gomi’s 1977 classic ‘Everyone Poops’ from the library. In it is one of the best-est two illustrated pages of human literature EVAR. “A one-hump camel makes a one-hump poop and a two-hump camel makes a two-hump poop. Only kidding!” You’re welcome.)

This is after reading ‘Simplify – 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life’, the wicked cheap e-book by Joshua Becker.

Much to my surprise, getting rid of stuff… to have less stuff… to start feeling like the toga partying Stoics of Ancient Greece… wasn’t the point. Neigh Nay, fair horse citizen! ‘Twas for the purpose of a higher ideal.

It ends up being more about the journey than the destination – the verbs in your life rather than the nouns. (I’ve just summarized the best bits of this blog. And the meaning of life. Congrats. You can now put aside your glowing rectangle, hike to the nearest fjord, graze off the land, gaze upwards, and contemplate the stars.)

How did I get to this conclusion incorporate this mindset into my daily adventure? We’ll pick back up, and fold in Agility, after my e-book e-notes:

  • Minimalism defined: the intentional promotion of the things we most value (deciding what is most important in my life) and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.
    • How we spend our time, the art we display, the clothes we wear. Removing the urgent for the sake of the important.
  • A simple minimalist home is calming.
  • Do I use it or love it?
    • Clutter: stuff I don’t use or love.
  • Clutter: too much stuff in too small a space.
  • ‘Rational minimalism’ is the type that works for me.
  • Intentionally promote the things we value
    • and remove anything that distracts us from them.
  • Decorate in a minimalist style.
  • Remove every item from a space, then KEEP / MOVE / DISCARD.
    • KEEP: high-use in front, low-use in back.
  • Is it essential?
    • If no, remove it.
  • 20% clothing worn 80% of time.
  • Become a fan of the lasting, invisible things.
    • Key to not buying more after getting to less.
  • Impress others with my life, not my stuff.
  • We were meant to live simply, enjoying the {experiences, people, journey, not things} of life.
    • We were never meant to live life accumulating stuff.
  • Surround myself with things I love, not what I should keep.
  • You don’t need to chase everything you’ve always wanted if you already have everything you need.
  • Every piece of clothing I own is my favourite clothes.
  • Do fewer things, better.
  • (Have fewer, better things.)

(The last two bullet points really do it for me. That last one is a pithy abstraction, summarizing the approach to the things in your life, but since the ultimate focus is on verbs versus nouns, I underscored this with parentheses. And if you’ve never heard of the oxymoronic practice of underscoring with parentheses, you have now.)

Didn’t read all that? Fine. Here’s a Bruce Lee quote that’ll catch you up:

Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.

To be clear, my understanding of minimalism is that it is the practice (so, constant action) of promoting the essential, while removing distractions. I take this a step further, since, yes, you’ll end up promoting & removing both verbs & nouns in & from your life & life, but focusing on what you do (the verbs), not have (the nouns), will bring you durable fulfillment. I see minimalism as a way to get there.

What does this have to do with Agile?

Let’s start from lower-level activities.

In Kanban, there is the practice of ‘limiting work in progress’. This results in more things getting to a done state more often. Using some illustrative numbers, let’s say you complete 1 thing per workday, instead of 5 things at the end of the workweek. This means, each day instead of each week, you have something you can release to the wild public to see how the animals your customers will react. This means you have more opportunities, each day instead of each week or five times more in this example, to get feedback and see if you’re on the right track with what you’re building / selling. The extreme example I use with Teams to illustrate another side of this point is:

Would you rather have 10 things 80% done, or 8 things 100% done?

Kanban’s preference for working on just a few things at a time can be seen as a result of minimalism’s call to constantly figuring out what’s important, constantly removing distractions, and then only working on what’s important, which can’t be everything, or even many things, but end up being a few essential things. Whether it reflects your essence, or the top priority items of the product backlog, these are small in number. (One might say… a minimal amount.)

Now let’s address higher-level thinking.

In ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries, validating a hypothesis requires an experiment that is targeted, reflected in what you measure & build. Because you want to get at the essence of what you want to learn, you won’t always need code or a prototype to get there, an intriguing characteristic of the Minimum Viable Product.

Creating a MVP thus requires a minimalist mindset in implementing the Build-Measure-Learn cycle, since at each stage (starting with what you want to learn, then how you want to measure it, then building something that includes the ability to measure that) you promote clarity of what you value (just learn this, so just measure these things, so build just enough to get these measurements), while removing distractions (let’s learn something specific, so don’t bother measuring these other things, so don’t spend time building more).

Ah. ‘Minimalism’ and ‘MVP’ share a root word. This reflects how minimalism & applied Agility have shared values. (Let us all agree that the following abbreviation is just to spice up mathematical proofs with the Latin equivalent of a mic-drop.) Q.E.D.


Picking the mic back up for a second, maybe y’now see how incorporating a minimalist mindset is not a stretch when living in an Agile way. Doing (…and having) what reflects your essence means a greater part of your days reflects what you value (…and not what you don’t value). This means a greater number of your days are full. Meaningfully full. Through minimalism.

Full Minimalist Life.

This blog post’s title wasn’t motivated by a pun after all.

Only kidding!

Lemme gently place this mic back down here…

Posted in analysis, happiness, outside resource, personal touch, product backlog, taoism, zephyr | Comments Off

Forty-Four Ways To Go From Here

TL;DR: I’m crowdsourcing what I blog about next. Behold, 44 ideas.

As I take another crack at focusing on fewer things, and getting better at each of them (will address this more in a future post on ‘minimalism’), I come back to this blog.

I’ve added the ability to comment on posts, then quickly nixed that. How do I want to connect with folks curious about this blog and the ScrumOfOne meme? Well, moderating comments is not an activity I enjoy, but I can handle tweets & email, so I set up notifications & forwarding so I can be better at responding when you contact me using those two links at the top of the column on the right.

The right column also sees a collapse of the ‘Archives’ links and the display of a more useful set of links: Categories. I think of these as tags, which is actually another thing in WordPress, but I don’t think they were around when I started the blog, so I’m sticking with what I started ’cause it works well enough.

So what do I write about next? I have a section in the right column now to answer this, mostly for myself :) ; however, I realized that I’ve started 44 posts over the past 6 years, some of which are relevant to where I want to go next, some of which I’ll find a way to pull from, and some that I’ll dump. And because a purpose of this blog is to bring you along for the ride, I’m sharing those 44 snippets! (And because I am an adult, I can choose to start a sentence with ‘and’.)

Find something below that speaks to you? Holla at your goy!

(By the way, go Google, “holla at your goy”. Y’know the number of hits you’ll get? Y’can count’em on one hand. Maybe with this post, there’ll be six.)


ScrumOfCrumb or [small Sprint Goal] tale of the little goal that could

Once upon a time, [[in the land of funk]], a stork did fly, holding in
her beak a bundle of, well, we’ll get to that.

Oh how this flappy bird did calmly glide on a reverent mission,
delivering from the highest plateaus of the Product Backlog
unto bustling glenn of the Sprint Backlog one singular, well, we’ll
get to that.

Somebody Stop Me

[tactic when running meetings, just to keep things moving]
[tactic for how I ask if any body wants to stop me or violently opposes an idea: way to get movement when communication is difficult because via conference call]

Living The Agile Values

[go over the Agile Values]
[analyze how that intersects with Scrum & SOO]

If Not Now, Then In Two Weeks

[I'm struggling - 3rd team is in India, so an early morning call, 6:30am Scrum every morning, and it's hurting - I haven't found my stride, will ask team to change it to 7am, which is 4:30pm, which is still respecting the 9-5 idea]
[Also struggling with sudden stuff becoming priority - a product of internal customers hearing what we can do and wanting a proof of concept, like, now, and the Product Owner giving in - can plan a buffer into the velocity, which I've done to myself... can do a 1 week Sprint, which I've done to myself... I'm hoping some motivation to NOT let/have this happen will come from within - the team members, since I can kind of feel it sucks to start something and then suddenly have to put it aside, so we have waste due to WIP, we don't complete the Sprint due to WIP, we can't figure out a neat velocity due to these interruptions which makes release planning more challenging, it lessens the significance of ME asking each team member to commit do a planned Sprint Backlog if there is a constant history of that backlog being uprooted, defeating the purpose of a Sprint: a time-box of solid contents, where the rest of the backlog is fluid contents.]

Of Mice And Meetings

[I recently became in charge of a meeting, so I asked the group if this meeting was useful. I also said that this is OUR meeting, so we have the opportunity to make it serve us, 'cause honestly, I don't want to be associated with a meeting that sucks and is a waste of time.]

The System Is Dead, Long Live The System

[add adaptations to System, each artifact and event]
[add one more: s-u += look over pBL visions, since not already an adaptation]
[apply everything I've learned and relearned as transparently as can, by respinning the System page to share not just the how, but also the why, with links to posts for more]
[also organize relevant pieces into another page where one can do their own ScrumOfOne From Scratch / Square One / Launch, again with the how and why, with links to posts for more]

Analyzing Blog For Tactics

[analyze this similarly to how I did the 'adaptation' posts]
[next'll be strategic stuff: direction & path series]

Analyzing Blog For Path Series

[how this differs from the posts tagged 'direction']

Distractions Are Efficient

[Am reading through three years of posts to categorize them and the first non-yay-I'm-starting-this post is about dealing with distractions.]
[When --engaging in-- enjoying a distraction, there's usually some associated level of excitement, or at least desire, if for nothing other than it is a more fun thing to do than the often more 'responsible' alternative.]
[It's being done efficiently... efficient/effectiveness discussion]

Toaster Tester

[how I answer the question, and why I answer it the way I do]

Ode To Croix

[Crossing things off]
[In that spirit, get one thing crossed off that completes a piece of functionality: resettling the nest after a room switch to accommodate our AirBnB venture.]
[from CPO class NTS: reduce input, then fix impediment, slowly increase input, fix next impediment, repeat]

I Don’t Tell Jokes – I Exist

[Comedy at Harvard Square (link) - this guy says I look like the bad guy from Kindergarten Cop (link) - Chris Coxen (link) - Barry Tattle (link) - his line]
[his line has stuck with me]
[Wei Wu Wei]

How I Bought Nothing

[Bitcoin/Litecoin latest efforts]

How Doth Thy Bed

[Go through different methods, lots of detail, get angry, mention thought about this gradual anger as a cute literary device, get angry about that being the focus, meta angry, ask the question last.]

Class of 2005 Commencement Speech

[what it'd be like almost a decade into the future]

Art is Making Decisions

When you’re doing creative work, you have to make lots of decisions, pretty much constantly. That’s what it means to make art…art is making creative decisions for a particular reason. And each person only has the willpower to make so many decisions per day before we start phoning it in and making bad decisions. So normally, your “best time” is going to be earlier in the day, rather than later, after you’ve been refreshed by sleep.


A Hedgehog By Any Other Name

[tale of the fox and the hedgehog]
[Hedgehog Concept by Jim Collins, point to video, summarize]
[compare with 4HW, 1DS]

Even In Business

[that Business Insider article, bookmarked on Desmond, about how the best management is down to one thing: find ppl's strengths and capitalize on them]

What ScrumOfOne Does Not Do

[Personal Development is a super-set of SOO]
[SOO does not get the PO to figuring out what he/she wants]
[SOO does not address limiting beliefs]

Like A House

There was an article in the New York Times…

“What matters for our happiness,” Dr. Dunn said, “is what we do in the minutes and hours of our day.” When shopping for a home, she recommends asking yourself, “How will this purchase change the way I spend my time next Tuesday?”

some guy said, “things give us more joy when they are first acquired than over time, as we adapt to them.” Based on this principle, to remain happy with your home you need to move periodically.

Buying a home is still considered an important step on the ladder to personal fulfillment. But Dr. Dunn isn’t convinced ownership is all it’s cracked up to be. “A very robust finding in psychology is poeple are highly motivated to justify their own choices,” she said. “It’s very hard to get people to admit they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in a way not optimal for their happiness.”

3a Always And Often

[step through CPO NTS]
[7% and 13%, making up 80%]

Creative People Say No

[neat story]
[doing your life's work means shutting out almost everything else]
[you are working most effectively, for sure, and most efficiently]
[surely there's another post like this that I've written]

2b Change For Free

[step through CPO NTS]

3b Money For Nothing

[step through CPO NTS]

2a Sprint Backlogs Need A Buffer

[Pattern: Interrupt Pattern - JS loves this pattern: powerful]
[- deal with the unexpected]
[- have a BUFFER of some points in sBL]
[- {Support, Management, Sales} issues filters through PO, o/ps those issues to {low priority, later, now (:buffer)}]
[- if buffer overflows, then abort, replan, dates slip]


[share the list of things I do/say/think as I start my day]


[of the 4 Martha Beck squares, the first two seem to talk about the CPO stuff / the what, and the second two seem to talk about the CSM stuff / the how]
[do I have a blog post on Effective or Efficient by 4HW? point to it]
[my blog is turning more into the direction piece, how to find THAT, else the how is like being a bigger caterpillar, rather than a butterfly]

The Party Continues

[This is what I say before I walk into work.]
[point to lecture by Alan Watts]

Go Away, Right Here

Looking up, I saw the silhouette of a guy in a window a block away. He was looking right at me. I mean, logically, he must have been, I don’t blame him, he couldn’t’ve helped it – I was silently jamming out really really loudly. I had my headphones on and was swaying, like when marimba rhythms start to play, and hitting things in the air, like Mario. I looked like one of those iPod commercials.

Don’t look at me like that – you know what I’m talkin’bout, Willis. Bruce Springsteen sang it best in ‘Born in the U.S.A.’:

So I put my hands up,
They’re playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away,
Noddin’ my head like, yeah,
Movin’ my hips like, yeah.

Hmm… maybe that was ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ by Miley Cyrus. Whatevs; like, yeah.

You’ve been there. You’ve been train spotted transported.

[David Elsewhere]

Not Yet Is OK

[take from Tribes /B, contra it]

Planning And The Now

[Planning and the now - Steve Pavlina]

Crafting Manifestos

[about manifestos and crafting them]

Co-Create With Reality

[Steve Pavlina's blog: purpose: you co-create with reality]
[cf EatPrayLove's author's TED Talk about 'genius']å

What Is Te?

[I'm sensing a convergence after reading 'Te of Piglet'... this idea of individual/unique virtue and how we're supposed to find it, get out of its way, and enhance it's expression/being seem to be put in so many forms of quotes that all seem to point to this idea - at least that's how I'm analyzing it]
[Gets to a discussion of actively planning, like Scrum, or passively acting, acting without acting, like Te, but that's the next post.]

Reconciling Taoism and Scrum

[Scrum's proactivity (proactiveness?) and Taoism's letting go]
[my conflict of these two models]
[am looking for a model of how they live together]
[how to reconcile]
['Tao of Scrum (complete)' link doesn't really mention Taoism, except for a couple a sentences]
[mention previous post of Gandhi and ScrumMaster]
[not a lot online relating the two]

Good Enough Is Great

[from ending of my 'Good Enough' post, the Taoist revelation]
[loving what you have, that appreciation is healthy]
[what do you love MOST about what you have]
[...got a few qualities? How do we emphasize those?]
[...sound like evolution/growth? Calls for a set of stories! (A natural start down ScrumOfOne.)]
[all starts by being conscious of and focusing on the present, then loving the present]

Judo Solution

[from Rework: one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort - remember can usually later turn good enough into great]
[talk about what IS Judo]
[stress the 'minimum effort' part]
[carry this line of thinking and possible paths, you create flow, specifically one characterized by least resistance... be like water]

Do It Later

[Is it a great idea? Awesome! Get to done your work in progress, and then dedicate your full attention to it.]

Embracing Seasons

[37signals blog post covers this somewhat]


[reference: http://www.context.org/iclib/ic26/domnguez/]

Importance of Rituals

[Rituals / Traditions - importance as noted by Joseph Campbell]
[Scrum & morning routine, including self-affirmations]
[Daily & Sprintly lists]

Not Here to Pay Bills

[You are not here to pay bills... that quote via Tricia]

notes to read before writing a post

A live cookbook.
A plan for the fearful.
Be vulnerable.
Make it about me.

ideas: review posts from other blogs
ideas: themes from retrospectives
ideas: one implementable action/habit/suggestion, with a result – a prescription – one problem with one solution

transparency & new section: track M3′s growth

[Talk about tracking M3. Introduce a new section on the site/blog that actually publishes burn-down charts each sprint - yikes!]

Posted in admin, outside resource | Comments Off

Start With Why

Why do you do what you do?

There. Don’t read the rest of this blog post. Just chew on the above for a solid minute. Five minutes, if you’re generous with yourself. Ten minutes, if you’re on a roll. Twenty minutes, if you’ve lost track of time and the thought of a growing inbox squeezed itself to the forefront. An hour, if you’re on one of those monk-like retreats where you’re on a vow of silence, and yet you’re reading blogs, like mine. A day, if you’re a fasting, silenting, enlightenmenting, non-showering, monkish type.

I mean, if you do decide to read on, you’ll see my notes on Start With Why, the book by Simon Sinek, as well as the results of what the book inspired me to do: figure out why I do what I do.

Alright, you stuck around! Here’s what I’ve got for book notes, in bulleted, yet non-violent, form:

  • People do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
  • Why: what you believe. What: tangible proof of what you believe, i.e., the products that give life to the cause.
  • Why: your beliefs / cause / idea that’ll inspire. How: guiding values & principles, actions to prove your beliefs. What: tangible results.
  • Why: clarity of purpose: vision statement. How: route to get there: mission statement.
  • If our customers believe what we believe, then trust forms. Trust is built on relationships. Earn trust: say what you believe and prove it in what you do.
  • Authenticity is doing what I believe.
  • Great leaders have charisma from clarity of why. Charisma can inspire.

The book covers way more, like the biological significance of ‘the why’, and plenty of examples where setting & sharing ‘the why’ begot success, and where not doing so begot total planetary annihilation at least unsustainable success. That first bullet was repeated throughout the book… so catchy… note how, besides the first word, that phrase is monosyllabic.

Y’still here? You must be the non-showering, monkish type! (With an IP address of – how appropriately odd.) So let’s get into the meaty, I mean juicy, I mean meaningful stuff. (Sorry, I forgot you were fasting.)

We do what we do because we are driven by a set of beliefs. For myself, I see this in how I interact with people, how I father, how I ‘husband’, and how I Agile Coach, let alone how I was drawn to this field. So what lies at the core of all these? Why does Merrill B. Lamont III do what he does? Let us pull back the curtain, revealing the following, one building on top of the next:

  • I believe every person has a gift.
  • I believe every person has a natural tendency to share this gift by expressing themselves.
  • I believe the journey towards global happiness can most efficiently & effectively be enjoyed by every person allowing the full expression of themselves.

I justify the above to my left-brain by thinking back to Economics 101: if hunters are better at hunting than gatherers, and gatherers are better at gathering than hunters, then more will be hunted & gathered if we allow the hunters to hunt and the gatherers to gather. By generalizing the notion of hunters having the gift of hunting, and gatherers having the gift of gathering, I get that third belief.

Time to get specific. Launching from that first belief, I now share a fourth belief, which is what drives my style of Agile Coaching (with a fire in my belly):

  • I believe teams are purposeful communities of people with gifts, to be respected & celebrated.

That “to be respected & celebrated” appendage serves 2 purposes. It guides how I address teams now that I have them defined. It is also deliberately unclear, since it does not specify which pre-comma noun is to be respected & celebrated; this sparks the inner dialogue of figuring out how to respect & celebrate each pre-comma noun.

I aim to respect & celebrate the purposeful community by clarifying & making understood the purpose of the group, by incorporating the care-taking thinking behind fostering a neighbourhood community, and by discussing both intra-team & inter-team working modes.

I aim to respect & celebrate the people by acknowledging their individuality & how a person is not a ‘resource’, by working with how we all exhibit both rational & irrational behaviours, and by modeling an environment for vulnerability & psychological safety.

I aim to respect & celebrate the gifts by explicitly teasing out the hopes & desires & dreams of each person, by modeling an atmosphere where they can be shared either inside or outside the office, and by giving space for gift-related communities.

Time to get extra-curricular. Launching from that second belief, I now share a fifth belief, which is what drives the side projects I dream up (with a gleam in my eye):

  • I believe that lowering the barrier to creating & sharing catalyzes the fuller expression of every person.

Think about what blogging platforms have enabled. Now YouTube. Now Twitter. Now Vine (RIP). These technology platforms have made it easier to produce your content (“lowering the barrier to creating”) and have mass-consumption of your content (“lowering the barrier to sharing”).

Now, I’m not saying every person should blog to become a blogger… because doing so uncovers the gift of blogging every person holds. I submit that engaging in these easier modes of creating & sharing will exercise the creative force in all of us, where further engagement in one or many of these easier modes of expression will lead to that personal mode of fuller expression.

Hm. I put that last sentence in bold because I haven’t thought this thought before. Let’s see how it sits with me. Hmmm… Yeah. I do believe it, so I’ll keep it. Well then, stumbling upon epiphanies like this is a win in my book – time to walk away!

I can’t say I’ve “started with why”, but I’ve uncovered my ‘why’ upon digging into the things I have started, and with this clarity of belief, it’s been much easier to decide what to do, much easier to act in the now, and much easier to… be in my own skin.


I not only follow the instruction of this blog post’s title in the blog post’s content, but I now get to end with ‘why’.

Posted in analysis, challenge, direction, happiness, leadership, outside resource, personal touch, taoism | Leave a comment

Vote Every Day

(The following is what I shared with my co-workers today shortly after noon, Boston time, the day after we elected Trump to the presidency.)

To those of us who voted, hello there. This is for you.

I was born in a literal kingdom (…of Saudi Arabia) 8,000 miles away, onto soil that was… not home. I spent the first half of my life (17 years) there, surrounded by ex-patriots knowing one day we’d all… go home. One day, we’d go live in America, and do American things, like vote.

That’s why yesterday was special for me. I got to vote yesterday.

In the hope of connecting to others’ humanity ( [robot face] [winking face] ), and at the risk of sounding unprofessional, I’ll share my candidate didn’t win the presidency, and this has gotten me to think about what it means to vote. ( <-- controversial hook / tension builds… )

Every four years, I am presented with an opportunity to make an act: to contribute towards empowering somebody to a position to make a difference: my president.

When my effort does not result in the outcome I want, I naturally ask myself where I can go from here. (lately in the form, “holy poop, now what”) Having a 15-month-old daughter has helped me get to this answer quicker, this time ‘round (lately in the form, “there’s poop, let’s change that diaper”):

Every damn day, I am presented with an opportunity to make an act: to contribute towards empowering somebody to a position to make a difference: myself.

Voting can mean you choosing what you do next. Every damn day. Every damn hour. Every damn minute. There is great power in this. This is what it means to be alive. ( <-- motivational poster / tension releases…)

Look around: we live in a land where we can make choices both in the large (amongst presidential candidates yesterday) and in the small (between Dunkin’ or Starbucks coffees on the 9th floor today in Boston). It’s not like this everywhere in the world.

You don’t have to only
- vote every four years,
- against someone else’s vision of the future,
- influencing our nation and our relationships with the world around us.

You can
- vote every damn day,
- towards your own vision of the future,
- influencing yourself and your relationships with the people around you.

To those of you who read this far, thank you. And now back to our regularly scheduled Slacking.

Posted in challenge, inspiration, leadership, personal touch, zephyr | Leave a comment

Soapy Water Wisdom

Being hungover (or was I still drunk… I forget, it was college) was the best thing for me during a Physics test. Here’s how one of the questions went:

Given a buncha formulas we’re giving you, mostly in Greek, and some assumptions like you’re living in a world with no friction that is all at sea level, turn this set of Greek letters into this other set of Sanskrit letters. Just kidding. Greek letters. Have fun, pal.

Does YOUR head hurt when you read that? I’ll assume it does ’cause you want to humor me. Thank you. You’re very kind. Now consider my aforementioned added cranial crankiness and you will believe me when I say I looked that question square in the iota and thought:

I’ll give YOU freakin’ frictionless maritime Greek letters.

And thus I did. Slippery sea-faring alphas to Teflon tidal omegas. Got one of the highest grades in the class for that test, too. My secret?

This shit just HAS to make sense.

I didn’t have the brain bandwidth to be creative: I could only methodically use my initial set of formulas and power through incremental changes to turn them into this other thing they wanted. Successfully re-deriving an equation is one of my biggest academic satisfactions. Because I am a dork. Brazenly drinking (shots of) vodka.

Fast-forward a decade and change, my child is 3 months old, and through the practice of doing dishes, I have re-derived the Kanban notion of limiting work-in-progress, and the Lean notion of single piece flow. Because I am a dad. Barely treading (soapy) water.

Much like the early months of college, the early months of Zephyr’s childhood are a sleepless blur. Thank goodness I have Twitterial evidence of this time, because conversationally, I can only recall chaos. At home the first 2 weeks of her life, my job was easy:

Given your wife has turned into a milk factory, both adult parties mostly without sleep, and reducing the house of any physical or emotional friction while keeping it afloat, turn Day 0 into Day 90. Have fun, Papa.

‘Twas a very reactionary time, which meant I was often interrupted, including when washing dishes. Not having a dishwasher meant, per my primitive process, soaking a tubful of things in hot soapy water, abrasively removing residue from the individual items in said hot soapy water, then setting the tub’s worth aside to rinse and set in the drying rack, all in one batch. Batch size = 1.00 tub.

‘Twas a very repetitively reactionary time, which meant the interruptions shed light on the flaws in my dishwashing ways, since per interruption:

  • The tub full of hot soapy water would go cold.
  • The tub plus set-aside washed but not rinsed items would often sit and take up room in the sink.
  • Washed but not rinsed items would sit all soapy.
  • My wife would get pissed at the clutter due to any/all of the above.
  • I would get pissed due to any/all of the above.

Besides the last 2, the above represents in-between states of dishwashing: they’re not in a dirty stacked pile, and they’re not cleaned in the drying rack. They are abandoned, mid-process, and to start the process back up requires some extra work, like adding back hot water, clearing out the sink if we want to do something else with it, or re-soaking the washed but not rinsed items to work off any soap residue that dried on. These in-progress items are considered waste by those who study Lean.

(This deserves a parenthetical paragraph. Did you know there are 3 Japanese words for waste? There’s muda, which is stuff that doesn’t add value, which includes things done before they need to be. There’s mura, which is unevenness like the pooling of work-in-progress, like my dishwashing process above. There’s muri, which is unreasonableness like not having enough time or spirit to do a process. There. You now know Japanese. You’re welcome.)

Any extra work, when you’re under the physical stress of continuous non-continual sleep, sucks. So much like that Physics test, I’d face that sink and think:

This dish-washing shit just HAS to make sense.

So… I tried an experiment. I didn’t fill up the tub completely, but just enough to soak and wash and rinse the, say, utensils. Batch size = 0.25 tub. Interruptions had less of an impact, and I was less wasteful.

To be even MORE responsive to the changing environment, I tried another experiment. I’d still soak a smaller set, then wash and rinse one item at a time. Batch size = 1 fork. Interruptions had the least impact, and empirically, through limiting work-in-progress down to single piece flow, more things made it to the drying rack.

Being over-tired (or was I still dreaming… I forget, it was last year) was the best thing for me when doing dishes.

Moral of the story? Live in a place with a dishwasher. I’m so freakin’ serious. It is time back in your day, and that is your greatest commodity. Don’t settle, unless it’s some Zen activity for you, then that’s your thang, and I’m not going to get in the way of your joy. Otherwise, screw any Agile concept re-derivation mumbo-jumbo above (I mean, thanks for reading!): if you’re reading this (thanks again!), you most likely live in the first-world. Embrace this. Use a dishwasher.

Posted in analysis, tactics, tricia, zephyr | Leave a comment