Category Archives: adaptation

Are you Lazy? Get a Routine

I’m pretty useless after the dance party.

After dinner, the table mostly put away, and our daughter’s toys mostly… not put away (yet), the CD player goes on, and the dance party begins.

Matt Heaton steps the tiny masses through basic behavioural norms like stopping and going. Then there’s a Wombat Dance. (We have a 2-year-old, so this all makes sense.) Before Matt, but still in popular rotation, we had Karen K and the Jitterbugs, wherein you, too, may want to be a Jitterbug, or have Pancakes for Dinner.

At some parentally appointed point, the music stops.

At some later painfully negotiated point, toys are put away.

At some even later peacefully navigated point, our daughter is in bed.

At this point, I’m pretty useless.

There’s 1-2 hours left in regulation time before the daily game is over, and I’m not really in the mood for anything creative or productive. Personal growth-related activities? Pfft, grrrl, please.

So what’s a citizen to do? Continue reading

What I Learned from the Consultancy Experiment

Ever wanted to be a mad scientist? As a Biomedical Engineer, my version of this involved lab coats, organs, and Southern accents.

If you drive North from Boston on I-95, before you get to New Hampshire, you’ll see on your right an Alfalfa farm. You’ll know because it is written out in what should be wrought iron.

If you take a Systems Physiology class in college, you’ll learn how the kidney’s mostly passive filtration system is truly magical. You’ll know because your kidneys will vibrate warmly. Giving you a hug. From the inside.

If you put those 2 together, you logically derive the motivation for studying Tissue Engineering in grad school: the commercial for Merrill’s Kidney Farm.

Picture folks in thick-rimmed glasses, wearing overalls, and white lab coats. Cue that Southern accent… Continue reading

Leave Cats Alone

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
- someone who walks around in a hand-made, cat-skin coat

Does that phrase give you paws pause? It should. It should get you to imagine a world where skinning cats was a common enough activity such that the variety of methods was contemplated often enough to drive to a conclusion that was shared widely enough to stake its claim in our indeed vulgar vernacular as an axiom. WTF.

Yet, I care about that world.

I want to live in that world.

I want to live in that world… with the small detail of switching out the skinning of cats with the living of life in an Agile manner.

There’s more than one way to live life in an Agile manner.
- someone who walks around in a hipster, vintage, upcycled, locally harvested, hand-made, cat-skin coat

Step into this world with me.

Step into a world where I pined to be a Scrum Master (I practiced with the team of me while documenting the journey on this blog), where upon becoming a full-time Scrum Master, I have written just 8 blog posts. I became a father. I landed my third full-time Agile Practitioner gig, now as a start-up’s sole Agile Coach. And looking back on my own ScrumOfOne, I wonder how Agile I really am.

Those close have heard me complain about how caring for a new life has reduced my capacity to engage in personal development. This is measured by, um, how many things I can cross off a “stuff to evolve Merrill” list, and how often I check in with myself regarding my ability to, um, check things off said list, and knowing that I am working on the highest-value activities.

Step into a world where I’ve been too sleep-deprived and/or on duty to do any of the above personal development. I used to have a detailed backlog, and now I don’t. I used to have regular planning sessions and retrospectives, and now I don’t. I used to walk around feeling in control of my purposeful path on this pale blue dot, and now I don’t. (I used to not complain, and now I do.)

All the markers of DOING Agile have disappeared… replaced by the markers of BEING Agile.

(This epiphany didn’t hit me until getting to this very part of the blog post, so please stick with me.)

Though not along a path set via purposeful planning, I know my hours are spent on the highest-value activities: what is needed now and next for my family.

Though not formal, I’ve learned to use the small gaps in daily activity to reflect and prepare, reducing feedback loops and extracting Kaizen where appropriate.

Though not detailed, I now frequently use Siri & dictation & the iCloud-backed-up Reminders app on my iPhone as just enough process to make me effective. The different lists in the app serve as different ‘product’ backlogs. Weekly to daily ‘Sprint’ backlogs are established via setting a date per reminder, so the highest priority items are visible on my lock screen. My working backlog is in my hand at the single push of a button. With ‘the next’ literally at hand, my focus is freed to embrace ‘the now’.

Those close will now hear me contemplate how caring for a new life has increased my capacity to engage in the present moment.

And, uh, I guess that still counts as personal development after all. Hm. Well then. Just goes to show there is more than one way to skin a cat live life in an Agile manner write about the latest stage of my ScrumOfOne journey skin a cat.

This Agile Life

Alright, I have a trailer idea. Just read this with that awesome voice.

In a world… where software developers dare to try Agile values and principles

Intrigued? Well hold on to your butts, ’cause here’s the kicker.

…six guys in St. Louis dare to podcast.

Booyah. I know. Riveting. Mind equals… lightly jostled from the hefty breeze.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the latest of the set of ways I’ve been keeping myself busy between jobs. This 7-week hiatus has proved to be the type of vacation I never thought I’d give myself: lots of recreational reading by the fireplace. Now replace ‘fireplace’ with ‘baseboard heater’. Now replace ‘recreational’ with ‘Agile & Scrum & Kanban -related’. Now replace ‘reading’ with – the point is, the internet has tonnes of stuff to read and watch and listen to and cry over (did you see the finale for this season of Downton Abbey? It’s like Freaky Friday, except classist).

What have I learned? I’m doing it all wrong.

Scrum is a framework that has more structure than Kanban. Scrum focuses on transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Kanban focuses on making work visible, and reducing work in progress. Both are considered Agile, and by focusing solely on Scrum, I’ve limited how I could explore the Agile value set in my personal development.

Yet, in a way, I’ve been transparent about my progress in conducting personal development through Scrum, and through inspection of how it feels to struggle balancing the planned and the unplanned, I’m adapting by embracing the study of Agile values and principles. Thus, the road I’ve chosen has gotten me here, to this intersection in a rural part of the state. There’s a cafe ’round the corner, and the locals seem friendly. I think I’ll explore. I’m taking this blog with me.

What have I learned? I’m doing it all right.

That podcast: This Agile Life. I’m starting from the beginning, over two years back, and it’s been both informative and entertaining. Give ‘em a shot if you’re into this.

How am I doing? I’m doing alright.

Sleep Well

I recently talked with a guy who went through a break-up. He detailed how it was hard to adjust, but he didn’t lose any sleep over it – he truly feels the right decision was made.

This got me thinking: that’s what life’s about: go to bed each night and when you look back on the day, truly sleep well (let go, be at peace).

This got me thinking some more: that‘s similar to another way of thinking about what life’s… about: go to your death bed and when you look back on your life, truly die well (let go, be at peace). Time scales are different, and this has been explored almost two years ago.

Besides making this connection, I want to offer one more insight: add another time scale: the Sprintly time box. Thus, go to the Retrospective and when you look back on the Sprint, let go & be at peace.

Oh no… we can go one more round: one more time scale: now. Let go & be at peace at all ‘now’s. Maybe that‘s what life’s about.

I’ll sleep on it.