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.

One Hundred And Thirty

That’s how many posts I’ve written on this incarnation of the blog, current entry not included – and that’s how many I’ve almost finished reading and categorizing in the past week. Three years of blogging about my experiment of the application of Scrum to personal development has yielded that… I am still growing, and that… I am still dealing with the same stuff.

Check it. Here is the emboldened passage from the last post:

…planning for less to more easily ride the flow of life while making deliberate steps for personal development…

Here is the middle paragraph from the first serious post:

Thus, the balance of a game plan and reality results in a strategy that makes me feel less guilty for enjoying the weather while still accomplishing the most per time spent on these sprints: Ruthless Story Completion.

Fo’ realz, homie. I am still dealing with how to balance personal development with life’s dynamicity.


Let’s see what I can gather after a complete read-through of this blog.

Organizing All This Goodness

Have you ever apologized to somebody, and then, years later, apologized to them for the exact same thing? It’s kind of embarrassing. Good thing there’s comedian Louie C.K. to step us through what that would look like, in all its glorious awkwardness, in the third season of his genius show, Louie.

I have not done this.

I have, however, realized that I blogged about something that I had blogged about before, and am thus relearning, albeit with less bumbling social buffoonery than our modern-day Charlie Brown, how planning for less to more easily ride the flow of life while making deliberate steps for personal development is a modus operandi that seems to work for me. It’s like I already have the answers!

So what else have I written about?

Good question – I’m about to find out. Part of that effort is categorizing all these posts with the handy tagging that WordPress lets me do.

Let’s see what I’m able to learn.

And relearn.