We live our life in compartments

March 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Real-life experiences, WoW - Way of Working | Leave a comment

Early this week I was at a conference in Bangalore. Here is the experience for the day and my take away from it.

At the company guest house where I was staying, I was told that it would take an hour to reach the conference hotel. Since the registration was to start at 8:30 am, I decided to leave by 7:30. It was a pleasant surprise to be there in 35 minutes flat, probably because the traffic was thinner than normal. When I went to the registration area I noticed that the registration team was preparing and were ready by 8:15. Some people were already there and more kept walking in and patiently waited for the registrations to start. I did the same.

But coming from agile background I know the importance of managing queues and maintaining flow. Whereas here the registration team was ready and waiting for time to turn 8:30 and so were the attendees. It was a funny sight, as if an invisible wall was stopping the flow and building potentially lengthening queues behind it. I am sure from their past experience the organizers had good reasons to do so. But I started wondering what would happen if the barrier was removed and flow started. May be the conference hall was getting ready and people walking in would have disturbed the arrangements; maybe not. Those registering could wait either in registration area, or go up to the conference area but wait when they saw the conference hall door is closed. But at least there would be shorter queues at the registration.

At 9 am the conference started and first item on the agenda was a keynote by Joshua Kerievsky about modern agile. It was an excellent session and as I listened and came to know about the four guiding principles one by one, I couldn’t help but to see the experience of a few minutes before in this light.
First principle of modern agile is – Make People Awesome.
This includes both the customers and our own people. Here the attendees were the customers, and the registration team our people. Were either of them being awesome? Could they have been more awesome if neither of them had to wait even though they could start?

Second principle is – Experiment and Learn Rapidly.
Trying out something different would reveal early the potential problems of taking an alternate route. And if there were no major issues, it could become one more option for future.

Third principle is – Make Safety a Prerequisite
I think it was safe enough to try out a different way. The people involved would understand.

Fourth principle is – Deliver Value Continuously
Stopping our people from delivering value when they were in a position to do so interrupted the value flow

Just before lunch I took a session which was about how our opinions (assumptions + beliefs + values) shape our way of working, which in turn affects our decisions, actions, interactions, and even emotions. Naturally at the back of my mind was a thought whether the opinions of the people involved in the morning incident had anything to do with their way of working? And if so, can this happen in other parts of our life and work in a similar situation. The validation of this possibility came soon after.

At lunch I joined a group which were sharing their experiences about agile at work. As expected most of them were practicing Scrum. I popped in a question whether they sometimes start work on the stories of the next sprint if those are clear enough and developers have slack towards the end of current sprint? One person said they never are in that situation. So I asked if they were in that situation, would they do it. He thought for a moment and said “But Scrum doesn’t allow it”. It was probably his assumption, because to the best of knowledge the Scrum guide does not anywhere say so. My next question to the group was whether they would like to do it if allowed. Another person responded that it will create problem with measurements because there will be effort variance as well as uneven velocity from sprint to sprint. At this point the group dissolved as everybody was keen to have the desert before rushing back for the next session.

When I looked back over the day, I realized that we often tend to live in separate compartments and don’t take learning & insights from one compartment to the other. Morning incident was separate, the modern agile keynote was separate, my session was separate, and discussion over lunch was separate. How nice it would be if we allow the insights from one compartment flow smoothly to the others.

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