Saturday, May 11, 2019

On Being There

I remember a few years ago, a fellow wandered into a standup after being rather MIA for two weeks. As in, he was physically in the building, just ignored all the normal “rituals” around Agile, and Scrum in particular. Now, this was interesting, because people would see him in the hallways, his calendar was always full, but the items were blocked so no one could see what they were, including the manager and team lead. He would not answer phone calls, return emails and mysteriously was never at his desk.

Then came the day he showed up in a standup toward the end of the sprint.

“Hey, I don’t have any tasks on the board so I was doing other stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, stuff that Bill asked me to do. It has been keeping me busy. What are you guys all doing?”

This was brought back to me very, very vividly a few weeks ago.

Since the first of the year, I’ve been working across Michigan, some 180 miles, from where I live. So drive to the office crazy early Monday morning, staying a few miles from the office location during the week, then driving home Friday night. This presents a bunch of challenges, as one might imagine. The family/home/pets/friends/relationship stuff is hard when you are home almost 72 hours per week and sleeping a fair portion of that time (as I am reminded often, I’m “not 40 anymore.”)

Then add to this, trying to fit in with a bunch of pipe band drummers you are supposed to be working with, but that has turned into “giving guidance and offering suggestions” based on recordings, simply because practice happens evenings during the week, 185 miles from where I am. So, one of the very, very rare weekend practices, I walked in and found… I was not fitting in. At all. That is really bad when you are supposed to all play things together, the same way.

Why? How’d this happen?

Simple. Minor little things were agreed on when the four of them were there, and worked on, and internalized – and then when I showed up, it was “Oh, yeah. Um, we changed that a little so now it is THIS. OK?” One or two of those are not a big deal. A bunch can be added over 3 months of work.

This is in addition to the stuff I WAS told about. “Oh, we changed the ending to this tune, so, here’s what it looks like. OK?”

The point of regular, weekly rehearsals is to keep everyone aligned and moving the same direction. The goal is to make sure there are no major, and only a very few minor, differences in style, interpretation and technique. Most importantly, to make sure the shared vision and purpose are present and driving the approach to music and presentation.

This, by the way, is the purpose behind the “rituals” of Scrum – the standups, the refinement meetings, the retrospectives and the demos – moving toward a more perfect alignment in purpose and reason for the team and the product.

All it takes is one person missing then magically showing up to totally disrupt the results.

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