Notes on Vision

I have a product framework based on a great book on roadmaps, folding in a few standard key ideas like having a vision. Personally, I like having a few versions of the same vision, adding granularity to represent deeper understanding & appreciation, to then aid different levels of daily decisioning decision-making.

Here’s the really dorky part. As “Merrill the Third”, I’ve grown up drawn to the number 3, and lately, thirds. Applying this odd proclivity (self-five!) to visioning crafting vision(s), I aim for lengths of about a minute, and a third of a minute (20 seconds), and a third of a third of a minute (~6 seconds), and a third of a third of a third of a minute (~2 seconds) (one over: three to the power of three – another self-five!).

So here are my notes on Vision.

Much like my notes on Minimalism & Product, these are not my most complete ideas (nor my most current… these are about 6 years old, a lifetime ago), but they resonate with me enough such that I look back on ’em from time to time, and figured I’d share ’em with you.

You’re welcome.

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My Morning Affirmations

‘Twas a simpler time, 2013. I was a couple of years into my ScrumOfOne adventure. The year started with my girlfriend ‘n’ I looking at engagement rings. The Boston Marathon bombing happened, and that same day, after rushing home to find her OK, calmly watching Mad Men after having done her taxes, I asked her to marry me.

2012 was an even simpler time for me. My girlfriend moved in halfway through the year, into a 550 sq. ft. apartment in Boston’s Back Bay, which meant, now that I think about it, the below was written before then. The below was written when I had space to sprawl out notes before conglomerating them onto the back of a business card of a failed venture.

I discovered the below while cleaning the archeological site known as my desk. Holding the business card like a newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll, this artifact revealed how Past-Merrill… really gave a shit. He went through all his notes, archived across journals and Google Docs and physical folders of significance, to squeeze the below onto something portable, ironically to never leave the desk.

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Side Hustling at 4:30 am

Losing your job sucks, especially when it’s your only revenue stream. How do you de-risk the effect of a job loss? Have a job NOT be your only revenue stream. How? Have a side hustle. What? Have a side hustle. No, I heard you the first time, but what’s a side hustle? Makin’ a li’l money on the side. Cool… so what are you gonna do, and how do you decide which of your ideas to tackle first? Let me show you my thinking.

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This is All So Strange, so Give Yourself a Sprint Zero

Have you seriously paused since being told to work from home (because of the Coronavirus) (to enact Social Distancing) (to #FlattenTheCurve)?

Have you seriously paused since your kids’ school closed and now they’re home with you for more of the week, with fewer to no day care options?

Have you seriously paused since your state governor issued a stay-at-home order?

Have you paused at all?

My 4.5-year-old daughter calls this, “an unusual time,” likely because that’s how we’ve craftily termed it at home, and I’ve found that my habits & projects & routine & …’life stance’ are either out of whack, or …not internally aligned. Has your daily & weekly schedule been thrown for a loop?

When school then business then social closures occurred, I folded each event in, like being told the train would be delayed: it’s annoying, now super-annoying, now super-duper-annoying, but I’ll simply adjust my daily & weekly goals & expectations, that’s all, ain’t no thang. Who am I kidding? This is a thang. Have your goals & expectations been more than simply adjusted?

In Scrum terms:

  • Kaizen is not enough – this time is too unusual for small experiments in continuous improvement
  • Cancelling a Sprint is not enough – this time is too unusual for stopping, and then regrouping, and then doing Sprint Planning
  • Sprint Zero feels better – this time is too unusual for anything other than an effort in re-teaming & re-chartering

I recommend seriously pausing. I mean, I’m still doing work-related stuff, and I’m still supporting the school for which I’m on the board, and I’m still the husband & Papa of my family, and for everything else, there’s MasterCard I’m seriously pausing, if for nothing other than to grieve the normalcy that was lost, to take a breath and look around with eyes wider open, and to decide how I want to conduct myself given I have access to good health, friendly faces under a roof, a roof, a fridge of food, healthy food, funds to float us a few months, solid internet access for FaceTiming with my daughter’s friends, water, and toilet paper.

This time is not normal.

This is not a tweak, or a series of tweaks, from a month ago.

This time is seriously different. (I mean, we don’t have WWII-style posters saying how it’s our Patriotic Duty to stay at home) (yet)

Seriously pause.

Seriously pause, be introspective, and figure out how the fuck you want to conduct yourself for these next few months.

And then in a week, pause again, ’cause that shit sure didn’t stick.

POST-SCRIPT

And ain’t this the Agile thing to do?

  • Do stuff.
  • Get feedback.
  • Now ready yourself to do stuff again, incorporating that feedback.

So pausing, while disruptive, is Agile, just at a larger time-scale than Scrum tends to talk about it.

Oh, and know how to wash your hands.

Out-Agiled by Nursery School

It’s true. It’s embarrassing. I’m so proud.

My kid’s pre-school, for which I’m on the board, had a call late Thursday (March 12) to close the school starting Monday (March 16). That Friday (March 13), the director talked to the kids during Circle Time (whenever I talk about a Daily Scrum with my daughter, I highlight this as her equivalent) about the school closure over the next two weeks.

First of all, that sense of transparency, as much as she could conduct without instilling Coronavirus-fear, and placing some trust in the kiddos, is rather Agile in spirit. Love it. This wasn’t where I was out-done, though.

When I did drop-off that Friday, I was told they were interested in doing a video conference with all the families, so that each day we could do a dance party and read stories – keeping that connection between the kids and teachers, maintaining a semblance of normalcy during these times of Social Distancing.

“WE CAN USE ZOOM!” I exclaimed, pulling from my corporate experience, “I HAVE A FREE ACCOUNT! PEOPLE CAN JOIN FOR FREE!” I was excited to be able to provide some help, technically, in these times of need.

So Monday (March 16) rolls around. All the families get an email saying a YouTube channel was started, new videos uploaded daily. “Cool cool,” I thought to myself, before zipping an email their way, “SO WHEN WE GONNA TEST THIS ZOOM THING OUT? I mean, I don’t care either way, BUT IT’S TOTALLY AWESOME, AND OUR CONNECTIONS WOULD BE LIVE!” I guess I did care either way.

This is the Agile bit you were here to see…

The email response began:

When we all talked about it we were taking it one step at a time. Let’s see how these videos go and our responses and evolve and adapt from there.

Duh. Of course. Agile’d.

I’m so proud.