Bias to Inquiry is Hard

I’ve got a Bias to Action. My wife will call me a Fact Finder, which is true, and at some point… I do make a move.

I recently learned the phrase “Bias to Inquiry”, which is useful in the world of an Agile Coach: you run across a behaviour you deem odd, and instead of wanting to act on it, you first seek to learn about it. Context is key. History can be insightful. Figure out why there’s a fence across the road before trying to tear it down. It’s the fifth Habit.

This Bias to Inquiry is something I do at work – I get paid to be diplomatic.

This blog post is to acknowledge aloud that Bias to Inquiry at home is hard.

Let’s take a benign example:

Oh, lookie here! Clothes strewn in the hallway. I’m going to make a quick decision and either kick it aside or take a detour to throw ’em in the hamper.

Then there’s a more contentious example:

Oh, lookie here! You believe some fantastical conspiracy theory about the election or vaccines. I… don’t even know where to begin.

I don’t always have the time or energy to first seek to understand bullshit. Maybe I should be more open-minded. Maybe I should have more grains of salt with what information I consume in general. Being open to learning is generally good for one’s survival, so why not apply that in these cases?

I’m just saying it’s hard.

My Approach to Starting an Agile Coaching Engagement

It’s like dating.

(Oh no. Seriously? THIS is how you’re starting a post about starting a relationship between an Agile Coach and her client?)

Ahem. It’s like dating. Maybe we have a mutual friend who invited both of us out to a bar to a meeting, the group got talking, the beer coffee or water got flowing, you piped up with what you have going on, I found your fledgling side hustle intriguing Scrum team composition stupid, and shared aloud, “Hey, I know the band at a chill spot a couple blocks away… y’wanna get outta here?” “Let’s continue this offline.”

(You know the band? THAT’s the line you’re showcasing? Dude, you are OUT of practice. It’s like you’ve been married for a few years…)

Continue reading My Approach to Starting an Agile Coaching Engagement

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.

Continue reading My Morning Affirmations

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.

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