A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



Breath in as well as out

Now that I've been trying to write every day for a month, I've come to realise something that should have been obvious.

Any strategy that involves just breathing out is going to encounter problems.

At some point, you need to take a breath and breathe in.

I think I'm getting to that point. I also think that that point is probabably nearer two weeks than three.

Sustainable pace is a crucial idea in Agile - it's alluded to in the Agile principles that come with the Agile Manifesto.

"Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely."

And a sustainable pace requires rests.

I'm nearly there for this thirty one days. This is (by my counting) day twenty seven.

But this is something that's often forgotten when thinking about "Delivering the Impossible."

Every now and then, you need to take a rest. And I was going to spell that "wrest."

You need to wrest yourself away.

Take a break.

"Trench Warfare," which is what I would call one approach to delivering the impossible, is to not take a break. Just keep going, as hard and as fast as you can. Stay late, get in early, miss weekends. It doesn't work.

Part of the reason is that the only things that you can keep doing, day after day without rest, relaxation and the reflection that comes with it are dumb things.

I was once in an "emergency" meeting on a Saturday. There was no emergency. An emergency is something that emerges. That comes up unexpectedly. There was nothing surprising about this. Everybody knew that this thing wasn't going to be delivered when it was supposed to be delivered. None of us knew where this supposition of the date had come from.

In this emergency meeting, one of the things that we talked about was what we were going to about our emergency meeting running on so long that it had run into the next emergency meeting.

This was a doomed project. It had at least three "brick without straw" problems. Ok, to be fair to me, one of those bricks-without-straw problems was that secretly one of the people who was dialling into the meeting was refusing to help. But there were also two bricks-without-straw problems in plain sight.

The most basic was that we didn't really know if the solution we'd come up with worked and we certainly knew that we couldn't prove it worked in the given timeframe.

Nobody was adding value in that meeting. Nobody was making thing any better in any way. We were all just costing money and getting tired when we should have been resting.

But we'd all been brought into the "deadline" theatre of emergency meetings. Which was stopping us resting, reflecting and seeing that what we were doing is folly.

In the end, I did manage to do something sensible with this project. I walked away.

This does bring me to an idea that's important, and which I hadn't realised up until now. And that is that there's a kind of poker going on in project delivery. You have to be prepared to walk away. Or at least, you have to make it look as if you will walk away. That's great. That's a post that's got a picture of Kenny Rogers at the top of it - that's for another day.