Saturday, March 22, 2014


On Wednesday, I had, hands down the best day ever at this job. That's actually a low bar, but in absolute terms it ranks favorably with all of my best workdays ever.

Wednesday was our planning day for the coming 2-week sprint. We look at the work lined up in our backlog, we decide what we're going to work on, and we break the implementation down into manageable tasks with clear definitions of "done." In order for this to be effective, the design work has to be at least mostly done. Sometimes you need to make time in previous sprints for people to do the design; most often you don't, because design tasks generally don't have a clearly defined end point, and it's the kind of free-thinking work that's good for us to do in between bouts of focused coding.

On Tuesday I sounded an alarm to the two other planning people (our manager and our product manager) that for the two projects we're trying to get done on a tight schedule, there was nothing defined well enough to start working on. I was promptly shouted down, with lots of crankiness on all sides. I went up to the City on Wednesday with some crabby going on.

And then. Then.

We got to the planning meetings, and because the team is fabulous, they discovered quickly that the work wasn't defined. So, without comment, they just jumped in to doing the design work. I didn't have to do much beyond the occasional well-timed nudge. It was glorious. (The next day, they did completely effective sprint planning without me. I should just retire.)

I had a long talk with the product manager about what went wrong with the planning and how we'll proceed from here, and also about our working together and the fact that our conversation the day before hadn't given either of us what we wanted.

At our manager's instigation, I talked to another scrum master about how we run things, and discovered we're doing most of the same things for the same reasons: the beginning of a concerted effort to change how Engineering operates.

I provided a gentle counterpoint to the new guy when he was being overwhelmed by our manager's dial being stuck on Highly Intense.

All of this was awesome because I fixed things. I went to work on a complex system (people working together) and got immediate feedback (people being able to work together better). Relationships repaired and improved, plans made, seeds planted, realizations begun.

Not bored now.

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