Motivation


I am taking a day off from our re-read of Thinking, Fast and Slow to spend the day at a pickle festival.  I began the morning with a bike ride (Mr. Adam’s has already commented on Strava) rather than running to change things up just a little which helped shift me to an introspective mood!  For your reading pleasure, a slightly modified entry from the Motivational Sunday series, this one from a Sunday in December 2013.

While we have a little less than half of a year left before the approaching New Year we can still take time to consider the goals and objectives we created for the year or New Year’s resolutions made.  However, many times we set goals that do not support our vision.  Goals are steps along a path, while the vision is the destination.  If we were to write our goals in a user story format, the goal would the action and the vision or strategy the benefit. When goals and vision are not linked, it will be hard to achieve either. (more…)

Rewards Needed?

The Software Process and Measurement Cast and Blog crew is on the road this weekend so we are going to take a day off from our re-read of Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2018 – Buy a copy and read along!)   Today we re-visit a blog entry from 2013,  In 2013 we ran a series titled “Motivational Sunday”.  In this entry, we talked about the relationship between commitment and habits. I have tweaked the works a little but the sentiments are no different. Commitment and habits can be positively interrelated. Commitment is being dedicated to a cause or activity.  Habits reflect a more or less fixed routine. The combination of commitment and habit is beneficial if the commitment is to a positive goal and habit does not become an obsession. Once it is established, the combination can go into autopilot. In my world, running reflects a positive combination of commitment and habit. (more…)

Longer races usually use "bins" to group runners, like classes of service.

Longer races usually use “bins” to group runners, like classes of service.

Without some sort of structure, projects, daily to-dos, ideas and just flat stuff can quickly overwhelm anyone. Many, if not most, of us have spent time taking time management classes of all types in an attempt to find the secret sauce for managing the chaos that is the 21st century. My wife is a sort of adherent of GTD®. Once upon a time I took classes for the Franklin Covey Planner, and I dutifully carried it everywhere. In recent years I have used Scrum and Kanban to manage projects. Many of the lessons in Agile and lean project management coupled with time management concepts are a useful synthesis: a personal Scrumban (Kanban-y Scrumban) approach. The approach begins with deciding on a set of classes of service and then developing an initial backlog. (more…)

Kevin Kruse's book: 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management

Time is a resource that everybody struggles to manage. Kevin Kruse’s new book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, outlines a set of tools that he has extracted from interviews with highly successful entrepreneurs, academics, and students. The 15 secrets include recognizing that there are only 1,440 minutes a day (be careful of those that ask you if you have a minute), identifying and focusing on your single most important task, and abandoning your to-do lists for a calendar. None of these or the other 12 secrets is easy to adopt if you are not already practicing time management techniques. While these techniques are not easy, you can unlearn less effective techniques based on purported common knowledge.

I have already been able to adopt a number of the practices, much to the chagrin of colleagues that don’t want an agenda that begins with the highest value item rather than something easy.

The book lays out the 15 secrets and then shares outtakes from Kevin’s conversations with students, entrepreneurs and academics. Frankly, I got little from the interviews with the academics and wish there were fewer. I got the most from the students (this section, I felt, ran a bit long also, but when I looked at all that I had highlighted, I recognized that my feeling was probably wrong).

Overall, I believe this book is extremely useful to me, even though I am old hand at time management. Regardless of whether you think you are a time management pro or are just starting to deal with trying to manage your own time, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management will be a valuable tool for helping you to manage your time successfully.

Buy Kevin’s book in paper or  Kindle eBook format!

Next week the vacation is over and we will get back to the Mythical-Man Month!

A sailboat can be used as a metaphor in a retrospective.

A sailboat can be used as a metaphor in a retrospective.

Most Agile and lean frameworks are built on the idea what is accomplished can be verified by observation or experience. For example, working software is the proof for software development, enhancement or maintenance, rather than a status report or an updated project schedule. The software can be demonstrated, which connects the act of doing with actually delivering value, partially completing the loop in an empirical process. Retrospectives provide a path to incorporate what was learned while working into the next wave of planning and executing. While daily retrospectives provide a very tactical mechanism to ensure that that the right tasks are tackled on a daily basis, a less frequent and more in-depth mechanism is needed to identify and address broader and more strategic issues. Personal Scurmban leverages a weekly retrospective that bookends the weekly cycle that is started by the weekly planning process. (more…)

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Reflection is a central tenant of all Agile frameworks. Do a bit of planning, execute against that plan, then step back and reflect on what was done and how it can be done better. Reflection acts as both a capstone for a period of work and as an input into the next cycle. For example, in Scrum each sprint culminates with the team performing a retrospective so they can learn and improve. Retrospectives have the same power whether they are team based or done at a personal level. In personal Scrumban, performing a daily retrospective is useful to generating focus and then tuning that focus based on the day-to-day pressures and changes in direction.

Daily retrospectives are a quick reflection on the days activities and how they were performed. The goal of the daily retrospectives is continuous improvement at a very intimate level, focused on the day YOU just completed. The process can be a simple extension of classic listing retrospective techniques (answering the questions “what worked well” and “what did not work,” and then deciding on what can be done better). A second process for daily retrospectives that I often recommend (and the one I use) is to:

  1. Position yourself in front of your Scrumban board. Personal Scrumban boards come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from white boards marked with columns for backlog, doing and done with a few yellow sticky-notes to fairly sophisticated tools like Trello or LeanKit Kanban.
  2. Adjust any cards (or tasks) to ensure that the current state of progress is reflected. This step will ensure you have re-grounded yourself based on what was accomplished during the day and made sure the board is ready for the daily planning/stand-up session the next day (kill as many birds with one stone as possible).
  3. Reflect on what you accomplished during the day. Celebrate the successes, then ask yourself whether you learned anything from what you accomplished that could be generalized and leveraged in future tasks. Alternately, ask yourself what was one new thing you learned today. Make a list and watch it grow. These techniques support process improvement, but are also motivational.
  4. Reflect on what you committed to accomplish during the day and did not complete (if anything). The goal is not to re-plan at this point, but to determine what got in the way and what can be learned from the experience. Pick one of issues you identified that you will commit to working on fixing (and are within your ability to address) and add it to your backlog. Consider for performing more of a formal root cause analysis (Five Whys for example) for the items that continually find their way on list.
  5. Close your notebook or turn off you laptop and call it a day!

The process for daily retrospectives is fairly simple. I try to spend 15 minutes at the end of work every day performing a retrospective. More than once I have tempted to spend more than 15 minutes on the process, however when I do, I find that what I’m really doing is planning for the next day. If I have found a shortcoming to the daily retrospective it is that I try to perform the process as the last event of the day (hence step 5), which makes it easy to forget if I am tired or the day has extended into the wee hours of the morning. Frankly, those are exactly the days that a daily retrospective is needed the most.

Daily retrospectives provide a tool to make changes when they can have the most effect. By their nature, daily retrospectives are more focused than weekly- or team- or sprint-level retrospectives, but that focus makes them very valuable for affecting the day-to-day process of how your work is done. Adding daily retrospective to your personal Scrumban adds the power of an empirical process to your daily grind.

 

A framework is just a framework without planning!

A framework is just a framework without planning!

Personal Scrumban establishes a framework for conquering the chaos that day-to-day life can throw at you. However having a structure, even a structure with multiple classes of service, does not get the most important pieces of work in the queue when they need to be in the queue. Planning is required. Weekly and daily planning exercises, similar to sprint planning and the daily stand-up, are useful for taming the backlog and adapting to the demands of real life.

I begin all weekly planning sessions with a quick backlog grooming session (note: when new items are added to the queue during the week, grooming can be performed). In personal Scrumban, the goal of backlog grooming is not get team consensus (no need for the Three Amigos). Rather the goal is to ensure each backlog item that might need to be tackled in the next week has been broken down so that there are one or two immediate next steps identified. The first step in backlog grooming is to ensure that all work items (or stories) have been classified by class of service. For example, if one of the work items was “Review cover art for the Hand-Drawn Slide Saturday Ebook,” the work item should be classified in the Podcast/Blog class of service. Classes of service act as a macro prioritization and assigns the work to the relevant time slice in any given day. The second step is sizing, just like in Scrum, the immediate next steps should be of a size that can be accomplished in a single sitting. The information gathered in execution will used as part of daily planning or during the next weekly planning session.

Weekly planning is comprised of getting work items in priority order and then deciding which needs to be dealt with during the upcoming week GIVEN what is known when planning occurs. If you have not already established a work-in-process limit (WIP), set one for each class of service. A WIP limit is the amount of work you will allow yourself to start and actively work on at any point. Work is only started if there is capacity to complete the task. Prioritize up to the WIP limit or just slightly past the limit in each category. Remember if as you complete tasks in a category (and you have time) you can refresh the backlog by prioritizing new items. I generally do my weekly planning every Sunday evening so that I am ready to begin the when I roll out of bed on Monday.

Daily planning is exactly like a daily stand-up meeting, with two minor twists. In Scrum, the daily stand-up meeting starts the day with each team member answering the three famous questions:

  • What did I complete since the last meeting?
  • What will I complete before the next meeting? and
  • What is blocking progress?

The three questions provide a framework to make generate laser focus on what is done and what needs to be done. The twists

In personal Scrumban, as in normal Kanban, completed work items would have been moved to the completed column of the Kanban board as soon as they done, however this is a good time to ensure that has occurred. The twists relate to how new items are dealt with and time allocation. During planning, work items that will be accomplished during the next 24 hours should be moved to in-progress. Given the nature of daily planning, if new work items have been discovered and prioritized into the backlog, they then become part of the standard planning process. The stand-up also provides time to reflect on anything that will block accomplishing the planned work items. A second twist to the stand-up process is a reassessment of the time slices being provided to each class of work. For example, if a critical work product needs to be completed, time from a more discretionary class of service can be reallocated and the work items in this category can be put on hold.

A weekly planning session provides a stage to address the week. To paraphrase Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, no weekly plan stands first contact with Monday. The daily stand-up provides a platform to re-adjust to the nuances of the week so that you can stay focused on delivering the maximum value possible. Without planning, all personal Kanban is a framework and a backlog of to-do items.  Planning puts the energy into the framework that provides the guidance and reduces stress.

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