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.

Agile Family

This blog documents the adventure of applying Scrum principles to my personal development.

I started a ScrumOfOne because I found it helpful with logistics as I moved into my own space in Boston’s Back Bay. (I carried my cheap bookshelf across town during a late January sleeting ’cause I guessed fewer folks would be out on the roads – I was right.)

Focus then shifted from dwelling development to personal development as I rediscovered pieces of myself. (That February, I was offered extra money to pull extra hours to get a couple of projects done, which I managed by sleeping on a yoga mat at work, not the newly purchased mattress at home. When the last thing you see before you close your eyes is the underside of your desk, you start questioning your choices.)

Having come to terms with what would bring me the most daily joy, what’s left is removing limiting beliefs, getting my butt in gear, and showering you with remixes of Wham’s Careless Whisper, all the while transparently tracking progress towards my vision, frequently adapting. (Adapting the stark abodal palette of browns and greys to oranges and giraffe heads with the addition of my loving partner in fun.)

Now, I can’t help but find the ScrumOfOne in what I read and hear and see, and it’s not so hard when it’s a TED Talk by Bruce Feiler called ‘Agile programming — for your family‘. The talk is much more than an application of Scrum (his last line is powerful), but here’s a primer:

The key idea of agile is that teams essentially manage themselves. … It works in software, and it turns out that it works with kids.

This is essentially family development through Scrum, and it is mentioned in his book, The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More.

Do you want a happy life? Try.

First Do Cat Food

That’s right. Cat food. I have to deal with cat food. You do, too. We all do. Freakin’ cat food… and I don’t even have a cat…

Cat food is the mundane. Cat food is the every day task. Cat food is the unavoidable. Much like literal cat food, if you don’t continue to do (…buy? sell? feed your cat? feed yourself? trade on the hot and emerging cat food commodities market?) cat food, something important ceases to work. Cat food is important at the lowest level, the opposite of which are activities towards fulfilling your purpose: important at the highest level. So, while moving along your life vector is important, so is cat food, and sometimes cat food comes first.

David Allen did a Google Tech Talk five years ago: GTD and the Two Keys to Sustaining a Healthy Life and Workstyle. Of ‘Getting Things Done‘ fame, he talks about two aspects of self-management: control and perspective. Getting control is mastering workflow, where you spend time collecting, then processing, organizing, reviewing, and doing. Getting perspective works with horizons of focus, from 50,000 feet, or your purpose and principles, to ground level, or the next actions; it is here where he says we should start, and not with a vision. You have to get deck-clearing capability first before being able to think at the high level.

Now that I think about it… this is what I did almost two years ago, when I first moved to my current place, where I started what ended up being a first version of ScrumOfOne. When at a complete loss of what to do next, when I had to clear my at least mental deck, I stepped through the following list first:

Eat food. Shop for food. Pay bills. Tidy up kitchen. Tidy up room. Do laundry. Iron.

Yeah. Ironing. (And that’s all I’ll say about that.)

Much as I like the idea of dealing with cat food before focusing on vision, I’d treat chronic pains the same way, where this includes items that are annoying, always there, and are general, glaring impediments to happiness. Sure, you can work on your purpose, but if you’re struggling with food, clothing, and shelter, and you’re concerned, then this’ll sit like a gremlin at the forefront of your brain and not let you freely pursue your heart song (ooh, I like that metaphor). You don’t need to totally rid yourself of this gremlin before starting down your happy path, but it does help to have a plan.

Good Enough

Hello, artist. You creator, you. Don’t consider yourself an artist? Well, are you making something? Then yep, that means you’re an artist! (Congratulations.) You are translating this THING in your head, this idea, into something you can see/hear/taste/smell/feel, and then you’re most likely getting others to see/hear/taste/smell/feel it, too: Creating and Connecting.

Don’t mind me. I don’t mean to interrupt. I just want to see/hear/taste/smell/feel this thing you’re up to. Wait, you WANT to show me? Awesome! Gee, thanks! So, to share this with me, you’ll have to stop creating. Not forever, I know, and you might not even be DONE, but in the continuum of its creation process, you are showing me one state.

This is a challenge to artists of all types: Is this thing done enough for me to share?

If we had infinite time, money, focus, and other resources, we’d want to make it perfect. PERFECT. So with that ideal in our heads, we keep going. We keep refining. We keep tweaking. We keep… going. We keep… not stopping so that we can ship. And this is bad. Hey, don’t look at me that way. Listen to Voltaire:

Dans ses écrits, un sàge Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

Essentially (from an Italian, yet in French): perfect is the enemy of the good.

Let me ask you a simple question. Do you know the future? Don’t lie, now. No? I didn’t think so. That’s OK, neither do I, and that’s the point. How do you know if this plan you have for this thing you’re making will really matter or create real value? How do you know if this thing in your head is really the best form for it to take?

People stink at planning. (What percentage of projects that you’ve been a part of have ended on time and on budget without continually updating the plan along the way to better match reality?) Scrum recognizes this poignantly human weakness and embraces it by espousing that we ship and ship often; at the end of each sprint, we have a potentially ‘shippable’ product.

At the end of each sprint, you have created a version you can share. For my earlier ScrumOfOne stories, they were ones I would share with… me: personal utility, whether it was more frequent use or a deeper use.

I started ScrumOfOne (talk about incrementally evolving THIS idea…) when I first moved into my current place. The floors were a mess, the bathroom sink was disgustingly clogged, and everything I owned was suddenly piled into my kitchen. Now what. You prioritize. The kitchen sink became a safe zone – I would shave there for a while, overlooking Mass. Ave. The toilet became lickably sterilized – my butt is high maintenance. The shower was scrubbed, but not gleaming white – baby, but solid steps for survival before living with some luxuries. The fridge doesn’t have to be wiped before populated with sustenance.

What type of artist was I then? I was desperate. I was crafting a livable space – for me – which was good enough (great for a time). And now, she and I are crafting this space for us – which is great (awesome going on awesomer).

First strive for Good Enough. Get to Great later.

You might find Good Enough IS Great, but that’s a Taoist revelation for another time…