Big Chunks of Time for Thinking

Photo by Johan Rd

Photo by Johan Rd

I came across an article on the New York Times called "More Reflection, Less Action" that talks about how people need time to reflect [which I've been practicing by adding slack time to my days].  There were a couple of quotes that I wanted to share:

...we too often view the opposite of “doing” as “not doing,” and then demonize inaction. In fact, good judgment grows out of reflection, and reflection requires the sort of quiet time that gets crowded out by the next demand.

When you're used to being busy all the time, it is difficult to adjust to being still--to "not doing."  It feels like the your brain just got off of a moving sidewalk.  As you adjust, you find that your brain starts thinking of new ideas and connecting pieces you hadn't connected before.  You think bigger and freer.  You reflect.

The article also mentions how Google has made iterating part of its culture: "Rethinking, reconsidering, and even reimagining are built into the process."  I work with teams that push back on rework because to them it signifies double work.  But what if we viewed that "extra" work as opening the door to possibility?  Now that we've seen the product, let's reimagine it and try it another way.  What would that mean for customers?  For our organization?  Yes, it may mean more designing, more programming, and more testing, but if we stop and reflect on what we're being asked to do, what would we think? 

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Avoiding Burn Out

Photo by Ian Sanderson

Photo by Ian Sanderson

I am the kind of person who stays active in a variety of organizations and activities, which keeps me at a relatively high state of "busy"-ness.  But recently I've been feeling under the weather--to the point where I have to slow down or even stop to prevent myself from literally or figuratively falling over under the weight of illness--and it's reminded me of the importance of slack.

It's difficult to slow down when you have multiple high priorities competing for attention.  But focusing your attention to just one thing at a time allows you to complete something faster and with higher quality.  It's not easy to prioritize our focus to just one thing at a time, but we have to pay attention to our attention.  Slowing down is easier when the work is always prioritized because it is easier to see where to focus next and there is visibility around what is and is not going to be done.  We must make the hard decisions and acknowledge we cannot get everything done.  Slack needs to be built into our lives for sustainable pace, learning, innovation, and improvement. 

Seth Godin admonishes that there is never enough:

...the organizations that get around the universal and insurmountable problems of not enough time and not enough money are able to create innovations, find resources to be generous and prepare for a tomorrow that's better than today. It's not easy, not at all, but probably (okay, certainly) worth it.

We're going to spend our entire future living in tomorrow—investing now, when it's difficult, is the single best moment.

My body is telling me that I need to add more slack into my life, and I am trying to obey.  What is your gut telling you?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Busyness and Slack Time

Photo by Sarah Joy

Photo by Sarah Joy

Lyssa Adkins's Agile Coaches email had a great quote from Henry David Thoreau this morning that I had to share:

It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?

I've noticed many scrum teams that are just starting out focus on keeping everyone busy--is there enough work for all of the developers?  All of the testers?  UX?  Business analysts?  And so on.  Unfortunately, it often means that the team commits to too much work in its iterations, and in-progress stories roll over from one sprint to the next.  How does a Scrum Master help his team get stories to Done?  Stop keeping people busy.

Harvard Business Review recently had an article about busyness that highlights the issue:

busyness seems to be most productive when the tasks we busy ourselves with are also meaningful.

Is the Scrum Master or a manager trying to keep team members' plates full, or is the team doing it themselves?  Often the behavior the team can be traced back to external influences, so listen to the messages that the team is hearing.  Important work shouldn't be left to be done during slack time, so help the team to commit to a realistic amount of work each iteration and have time for learning, improving, and refactoring. 

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.