What is on your to-do list?

I was recently standing in a line waiting to get on an airplane and overhead a child talking with an adult.  The part of the conversation I heard began, “When I grow up I want to be. . .” Whether the child knew it or not, he was espousing a goal based on his vision of the future. In the run-up to the New Year, it is important to remember the benefits of goal setting. Setting goals is important for deciding what you want to achieve in a specific period, whether a day, month, quarter, year or lifetime. Goal setting provides value by forcing a degree of introspection, acting as a filter to separate the important from the irrelevant and as a guide to channel behavior.

Introspection is the act of calmly reviewing one’s thoughts, sorting through the clutter of day-to-day living. Techniques like retrospectives are a structured approach to introspection at a group and personal level. Meditation is also a valuable technique for individual introspection. The act of stepping back and thinking about the future is an excellent first step in the process of goal setting by providing the quiet space to consider what has been accomplished and to consider aspirations. You need to first agree upon a vision of the future to pursue so that you can set  goals to help to achieve that vision.


Transparency, when combined with goal-driven behaviors, acts as a powerful tool to motivate and guide development teams. Transparent, goal-driven behaviors are an integral component of all software development techniques, particularly when applying Agile techniques. Public, observable commitments are one form of transparent goal-driven behavior.
The process of team members reporting and planning work during the stand-up meeting is an important example of public commitment and transparency. In a well-oiled Agile team, each member of the team accepts work for the day; “taking” the work that is the highest priority or swarming to tasks where help is needed. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing and is free to help guide the process. The act of “taking” the work in public is a tactical form of commitment that brings to bear pressure to perform and support the team. Failure of an individual team member to do what they promised will injure their reputation.
Non-Agile project management techniques do not foster the same level of public commitment that the Scrum stand-up technique creates. Techniques that foster stronger commitment to the task at hand will increase the likelihood that a team will deliver what they promise. This will enhance the reputations of the individual, the team and in the long run the whole IT department. Publicly “taking” work during a stand-up combines transparency and commitment to create motivation.