Category Archives: genesis story

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.

The Ends Justify The Genes

Oh, that’s right, I have a blog. Maybe I’ll post something.


There. It’s done. We goooood. Hasta la pasta, people. Zip up your knapsacks, knickknacks, and fanny packs. Leave the paddy whacks. (Hit the road, Jack.)

I created this blog so that I could document the journey of applying Scrum to personal development. I applied Scrum to personal development because I didn’t have a team of people such that I could apply Scrum to software development. I didn’t have a team of guinea pigs people because I had just received my ScrumMaster certification, and was a n00b looking for experience. To that end, this blog documented how, as a Biomedical Engineer testing bedside monitoring systems, I scrappliy found a way to practice being a ScrumMaster until I was employed as one. Of course, for the past 6 months, I was happily neck-deep as a ScrumMaster for 3 teams, which means this blog has reached its end, although not the only end.


(It was worth a crack.)

I applied Scrum to personal development also because… it helped… and is helping, both tactically and strategically. It is a way of life that I am still refining, and ain’t that the Western way to be: to want to be better.


Juxtapose this with a more Eastern approach, which is to give in & embrace to your inner way of being.


The blog thus continues, focusing on exploring both these philosophical …ends… while living through Scrum.


(Cut me some slack.)

Trial By ScrumMaster

Folks, I’ve made it – it’s been 2 months since I’ve lasted blogged, and that’s because I had been transitioning away from being paid to break expensive hospital equipment test medical devices in Andover, towards being paid to crush the spirits of insolent coders coach software development teams in Boston’s Fort Point district (by South Station).

I don’t always change careers, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis it’s exciting and a whirlwind of activity, from sending off and being sent off by my close-knit awesome team (and colleagues of 6 years), to welcoming and being welcomed by a couple of virtually-knit teams (half of my colleagues are in Romania!).

My first job was to reduce the number of unknown unknowns, i.e., yes, there’s an onboarding process to becoming a new employee (the formal stuff) and learning the social structures (the informal stuff) at a new place, so I’ve got to figure out what they even are to then address them.

My second job was to familiarize myself with the teams and the state of Scrum within each of them, i.e., learning Indian names and Romanian names, then how to pronounce them, then getting a sense of how much Scrum they know. Lucky for me, I’ve got a couple of crews that WANT to get better at this game. They LIKE the theory, and they WANT help with the practice. They’re smart and they push back on me, forcing me to lead discussions so everybody’s on the same page and willing to experiment with new processes.

It’s been trial by fire.

It’s been drinking from the firehose.

It’s been the starkly punctuated evolution of my wanting to be better at Scrum from leading a team of just me to now leading two teams of international team members.

It’s been trial by firehose trial by ScrumMaster.

I feel awesome, and since my theme song isn’t on YouTube yet, I’ll give you the next best thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. You’re welcome.

Scrum And The City

It spoke to me in a hushed, spiteful tone.

You suck!

I turned to face the source of such antagonistic mockery and made eye contact. From the same hole that was staring me down, it sneered a taunt from just out of reach, actively engaging in guerrilla warfare.

Welcome home, you jerk-faced low-life.

I was already feeling like crap, so this was the last thing I wanted upon dragging duffel bags filled with college text books up a couple of flights of stairs. Granted, it was one way to stay warm on a drizzly January afternoon. Granted, it was one way to fit in my daily work-out. Granted, it was a Sisyphusian reminder to ditch the dead tree I’ve dragged from home to home. Granted, it was -

Hey, you uncreative low-lifed jerk-face.

I had it – this was getting out of hand.

Yeah? Well whacha gonna do about it, punk?

I turned towards the fridge, knelt down, and stood back up, Cheerio in hand. I looked around the kitchen for a place to put it, preferably a container that loosely resembled a trash can. A rubbish bin. A garbage receptacle. An empty container of little-to-no value.

Like your soulless shell of a body, ya bum?

Again, I was already feeling like crap. I just came off a rough break-up, resulting in a desperate apartment hunt in mid-January, which is way off-season in this college town. I somehow found a place and threw wads of cash at the realtor to take it off the market. Now, everything of value to me was splayed across the kitchen floor in a haggered landscape of memories – all 5 taxi-loads. Except for the desk – I had a guy from Craig’s List help me with that. I had nothing to offer him besides the agreed upon amount, so we toasted with the one thing in my fridge: vodka.

You gonna offer me a shot, loser? Or are you just gonna continue projecting your inner monologue through a piece of cereal you picked off the floor of your filthy apartment?

The Cheerio was right. I was lonely. And physically spent. And emotionally spent. And in need of a trash can.

I thus started my single life in Boston – with a list. First item on that list: trash can. Defeated, I put my new and abusive friend back under the fridge.

Hey, if you like lists so much, why don’t you use that stupid Scrum certification to get your life in order, tough guy.

Again, the Cheerio was right.

Hello Again, Genesis

I’m in the midst of settling into a 2-bedroom apartment in Cambridge from a 1-bedroom apartment in Boston’s Back Bay. We moved last weekend, with the freakin’ rest of the world, or at least what felt like it in this college-dense area of the planet.

So, I’m busy.

But I’m not too busy to notice that my concept of a ScrumOfOne was born out of the combination of moving to that Boston pad (aaaaall the way across the river) and being single, and how now, while I’m very happily not single, I’m once again moving to a new abode.

Boxes and bags abound, up to my eyeballs in a neatly compartmentalized chaos, and affronted by entropicly evolved states of the floor in most rooms, a prioritized list manifests more easily.

Hello again, genesis.