Regularly Scheduled Chaos

Oh – hey! I almost didn’t see you there. You know. From up here on the bandwagon. The view is great. But you’re not here for that. You’re here ‘caus-

Snake Oil! Snake Oil! Snake Oil! Get some now! It’s great for what ails ya! Anything! Anything at all! Grandma got bunions? Papi got the sniffles? Then Snake Oil is for you! Apply directly to the forehead! Snake Oil!

Geez, don’t you hate that? Here we are, having a nice conversation, you down there, me up here, on the bandwagon, out where the deer and the antelope play, and out of nowhere we get interrup-

Fording a river? Who isn’t nowadays! For these hazardous trips, don’t risk it! Leave it to the experts! Let us at Caleb’s help you with some of our special caulk! Caleb’s Caulk! Don’t leave home without it! Caleb’s Caulk!

…interrupted. You can’t predict these things. (Unless, of course, you can …at which point please help me with trading Bitcoins.) You just have to be ready to roll with it (chaos), and I recently learned how after my last sprint (scheduled life).

See, Sprint 141 was my first one back after not doing any disciplined self-Scrumming, so I planned to do all this stuff. I had all this energy at my personal Sprint Planning session, where I looked over my Product Backlogs, grabbed the top-prioritized stories, threw ‘em into the Sprint Backlog for Sprint 141, and was all like, “Yeah! I’m gonna DO this! Do it all! All the things!”

Yyyyyeah – no. I did not.

My Sprint 141 velocity was 37 points, which is respectable for me (more on how I’ve assigned points to personal/ScrumOfOne stories in a future post), but in the Retrospective, I looked at the stories associated with those 37 points, and noticed two things:

  1. I didn’t get done even half of what I had planned for that two-week period.
  2. I got a lot of other stuff done.

This ‘other stuff’ was mainly in reaction to unforeseen …interruptions, e.g., a buddy visiting, striking while the iron is hot for a surprise date, sudden extra work at …work.

So there I was, at my own personal Retrospective, feeling both good and bad at the same time. Good because I got a decent amount of stuff done – I was productive! Bad because half of my accomplishments weren’t from the planned Sprint Backlog, which meant they weren’t the top-priority… the things that would move me most towards the respective visions per personal Product Backlog – I was not efficient!

This last part is a downer. It’s a downer because I had done this all the time: planning to do a set of things over two weeks, and at the end of the two weeks, never getting them done. I have thus been injecting into my own life regular opportunities to show myself that I can’t get done what I planned, snowballing evidence of my inability to both commit and commit to myself! What’s a mother to do?

For just such situations (corporate teams encounter this, too), Scrum co-founder Jeff Sutherland recommends something called the ‘Interrupt Pattern‘. Essentially, be flexible to sudden direction changes by planning for less. Sprint Teams can do this by adding a buffer of points into their planned velocity, where this buffer is a placeholder for stories that suddenly crop up, like dealing with hot issues from a customer or a freak Y2K bug that was latent for 14 years.

For ScrumOfOne-rs like me, this means committing to fewer stories at the Sprint Planning, knowing that I will make up the rest of my bi-weekly productivity with either tactical accomplishments (reacting to life – stuff just came up) or strategic accomplishments (living proactively – stuff off my Product Backlogs).

This improvement to Sprint Planning was the more interesting Kaizen to come out of the last Retrospective. The piece of improvement I’m applying to this Sprint 142 is to push daily to complete a planned 1-point story. This ensures I’m doing something each day to refine myself. Today, that 1-point story is pumping out the weekly blog post.

Tomorrow, that 1-point story might well be to buy some of that caulk I’ve heard so much about…