Constraints within constraints! #agile #scrum

I travel for work. Do I claim that I do not have a choice?  NO. I do this with a belief that I am creating  many future possibilities for my ‘career growth’ . I really do. I travel not with vengeance or anger.  Not with the intention to prove a purpose. I travel with the belief that this window of opportunity lined up due to constraints and restrictions that overlap with other constraints for others. When constraints overlap in real life they merge. A constraint for one person is the perfect opportunity for another.

I do not even want to elaborate on the lessons I am learning as a single mother in balancing career (including carving time for learning, budgeting, picking up new skills, being in touch with the professional community) and returning to  family life  during the weekend (time with my children,  time with friends, time for myself, and recognizing that I need to be the mom-dad role to children even when they are young adults!)

In this scarce space for time, I still decide to facilitate the Agile meetup at Geekdom in San Antonio during Saturday afternoons frequently.   Saturday is not a good day for a professional gathering. Especially during the middle of the day. But that is the only time I have.

Not being in San Antonio during weekday evenings to schedule sessions and meet a larger population is my first constraint

Scheduling the session on a Saturday afternoon is the second constraint

And now that downtown free parking spaces are dwindling and folks pays $10 and above is a bigger third constraint

In addition, people who show up must be beating similar constraints of time, cost, priorities etc.

Given the constraints for everyone who shows up I am sure you can recognize my sense of responsibility , commitment and a strong desire to ensure that who ever shows up leaves with some value addition. That is my promise to them. Sort of an MVP for them.

During the end of 2014, in a particular session, there was just one attendee and I. It was one of the best sessions of 2014. I recognized the joy and satisfaction he derived from discussing risks, prioritization, negotiation and communication that happens with his team.   That day I was a great listener. Clearing  questions about agile and agile transformation was most rewarding. Helping him identify opportunities to enable conversations was most joyful.

And then another opportunity came by this afternoon…. After finding a very small window of opportunity in their day filled with many obligations and time constraints… when two people showed up, our conversations were powerful yet gentle and full of kindness.. I felt the power of constraints. And then I also recognized the super power of people who create windows of opportunities in these constraints and navigate them.  It seemed like we 3 created the perfect opportunity merge and overlap our constraints to create a perfect learning opportunity for each one of us.

I have begun to love and cherish constraints. They unleash something new in me. Something different. Something very creative and positive.


Daily huddle is, but active listening! my luv

Here are just two activities that I recommend to my teams when they participate in a daily huddle:

-Pay attention to what your team member  says. It will end in under two minutes.  Then do the same to each and every one. As they speak, connect to what they said yesterday.  (You have now effectively listened to 5-6 people speak)

-When its your turn,  speak clearly, make your task relevant to the teams’ work as much as possible.

By making these two the core expectations of the huddle, the realization is we:

1. Never paid attention to our colleagues and team members during any meeting.

2. We were always getting ready to counter they statements, or getting ready to speak.

3. That is why we heavily relied on meeting notes, long laundry lists…… and so on and so forth.

4. And is that why we needed extended “STATUS” meetings all the time?
NOW the funny part is…….. Organizations have been having meetings for ever. They begin at 5:00 am if you have near shore, offshore employees….. and some start at midnight.  Then why is the daily huddle called on as a “pain” / “prescribed by Scrum” or being labelled as a failure by Agile Coaches as “team members are lazy”

Scrum asks teams to practice: LISTENING.  ACTIVE LISTENING.  which means… SHOWING RESPECT.

My secondary objective to set the bar high from day 1 of the daily huddle is also to inform their Managers, Leaders, C-Execs…. “People! Yes, your team meets everyday at a certain time. Yes. they discuss tasks. Oh but wait. YOU cannot hijack that meeting to get status reporting. Nope”.  Sorry. you are allowed to participate. Listen and observe. Provide your two minute update.  YES. You need to actively listen. and SHOW RESPECT.

As a team matures and evolves, they will understand the “street play” that is being staged during the huddle.  Without prompting, they will realize who needs to start first, who will take the talking token next (if they are using one) and begin to enjoy the ceremony in harmony.

I do have a third and a fourth objective to stress the relevance of active listening. Soon to come …