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.

Three-Minute Sprint

Try it.

And no, that doesn’t mean y’gotta be all strict-Scrum about it by having a Planning meeting, then standing up every 30 seconds, then Retrospecting at the end, followed by a Review session. Plan beforehand. Retrospect & Review afterwards. Sit down for the full three minutes.

Get yourself to focus for a full three minutes on something, where you may not have a potentially shippable output, but there is some micro-milestone you can claim.

Try it.

What you’ll find is this kick-starts your productivity. You’re giving yourself space to work towards something. Sometimes it feels silly, but at least for me, most of the time I blow past the timer and keep going.

This idea pops up when building habits. Pulling again from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, when implementing “The Third Law – Make It Easy”, he recommends starting with repetition over perfection. This is what is meant by the initially counter-intuitive phrase, “quantity over quality”.

Frequency builds habits. So make it easy by finding and doing the miniature version of the habit you really want. Want to do 10 push-ups? Do and be satisfied with 1 push-up. Want to focus on work for 30 minutes? Do and be satisfied with 3 minutes. It’s the frequency of the exercise session and the work session that builds those habits, so you might as well make it easy.

The book calls this the “Two-Minute Rule”. I like three. Partially ’cause I’m Merrill The Third, and partially ’cause my daughter has these hourglass sand timers. We don’t have a two-minute one, but we do have a three. This analog solution is very satisfying.

Try it.

Who knows. It might kick-start anything you tell yourself you want to do, like, say, oh, I dunno, write a blog post first draft in 30 minutes, just as an example. Insert winkie-face here.

Scrum At Hail

I’m starting this post with a pun of a title…. hopefully I can weave one together so that this title makes sense…

Let’s say you have an Agile team. You probably call it a Squad, admit it. Let’s also say this team is running Scrum, and because this is all hypothetical, let’s finally say it’s doing Scrum well.

Well done. ‘Twas all you. Give yourself a… self-five.

Let’s now say you have more than one Agile team Squad, at varying levels of Agile maturity at different stages on their Agile journey, and their work is either related to or dependent on each other no, wait, that was right, let’s keep it… and their work is either related to or dependent on each other.

Well, crap. It’s all on you. Pick a scaling framework… from five.

Let’s celebratorily say you’ve picked one. Now you can have focused conversations around ‘the now’ and ‘the next’, incorporating more aspects of the business, and hopefully addressing impediments quickly, even with as many Squads as you have.

Well, there you have it: Scrum, at scale.

This does not make sense when you’re a ScrumOfOne. Or does it? No, it doesn’t. Continue reading Scrum At Hail

A High Bar for Product Culture

My daughter is in the phase where she’s always asking me “why?”, so she asks me, “Why do you go to work?” …and I hate how a toddler has given me so much pause… because I don’t like my answer.

Here’s a window into an internal struggle:

Do you work for a company with an inspiring vision? Why the heck not? And why do you choose to spend your days contributing to a group that’s not improving humanity?

And now, here’s my struggle as I iterate on my Agility:

Why continue to focus on how things are being built & done when what we are building & doing is not improving humanity?

What do I tell my 2-year-old daughter? Continue reading A High Bar for Product Culture