Agile on the road #vanlife day (minus)-28

Agile Compendium of Games Continued …

So today I have decided to take what will be one of many trips back in time, in Agile terms we call this a retrospective. The last time I gave you the first in the many exhilarating (read stress-inducing) games that Catherine and I have been playing whilst on the road. Many of you wanted to know more about some of the other games that we play so I thought I would furnish you with the rules of the very first one that we played. I call this one …

My first ever cartoon drawing on my must-have Magnetic Whiteboard!

Reverse Tetris

Now I do consider myself to be an excellent Tetris player as I have awesome spatial awareness, an excellent ability to spot patterns and an agile mind that’s great at solving problems. (Tetris, for those of you who don’t know, is a video puzzle game that involves fitting pieces of a puzzle together as they descend down the screen. The speed of the descending pieces accelerates over time and it becomes trickier and trickier to solve. You can find out more about it here. )

For a very long time now Catherine and I have agreed that she can tell me what problems she would like me to solve* but in no way should she be telling me how to solve them. This has always worked well in our relationship as Catherine is convinced that what is way more important than how. I tend to agree with her (as that tends to make for an easier life).

*(In this context problem-solving will sound like “I would like this item in this sort of vicinity”. Hence the Tetris style of problem-solving: how to fit all these intricate little odds and sods into our van. Now bearing in mind that in our van, which measures a little over 4 metres, there aren’t many vicinities so there are still problems to solve and thus I get the satisfying payback when I find a solution).

They should teach this in the Scrum Mastery Course

So in order to play this game, one partner is in charge of saying WHAT is essential or a nice to have; the other person is then in charge of packing the van HOW they see fit. I’m sure any project managers reading this will see the similarity of a very familiar and age-old challenge of prioritising requirements and how on a daily basis the product owner reprioritises those requirements.

*(if you aren’t familiar with agile terminology the product owner is the owner of the requirements i.e. WHAT to build or create and in this context of vanlife read “wife”. Catherine is the “sensible and detailed one” in our relationship and she for her sins has to put up with my abstractions and often wild and overly optimistic ideas. It’s good to have clear roles and responsibilities which are best aligned with our personalities and preferences… this makes for a more enjoyable and longer-lasting marriage)

Now what is arguably a reasonable request to “please just add in this little trinket” results in the playing of reverse Tetris by the van packer (by van packer read here “the very patient and virtuous husband who understands the number one marriage precept of happy wife = happy life”). The only answer to the request as I have found through experimentation (scenario sample size = 1, i.e. I’ve tried this only once) is “OK let me figure that one out”.

How many times should you reprioritise?

If like me you are good at spotting patterns then you can reasonably predict that the above sequence of events will be repeated a number of times. However, through limited experiments (scenario sample size = 1, again I’ve only tried this once) you may try to anticipate further reprioritisation attempts and would like to “head those off at the pass” with a helpful comment such as “is there anything else you want to add in right now (while I still have everything else outside on the driveway)”*

It has to be remembered that many requirements cannot be predicted in advance so any attempt to make this the last reprioritisation will be in vain. It’s just better to get on with now playing ordinary Tetris because of your joy of solving problems. Just look at future games of reverse Tetris as an opportunity to store up “whisky tasting” or “distillery visiting” points to be cashed in later.

*I wouldn’t advise that last part of the comment unless you are happy to have a conversation around attitudes while also remembering marriage precept number 1 mentioned above.

Adjunct game … a bonus for the brave-hearted*

As the van packer you can, if feeling particularly exuberant or full of the joys of the adventure that lies ahead, decide to overstep your role and your responsibilities and start to suggest your own requirements to the powers that be (such as “I think it’s important to bring my magnetic mini-whiteboard”). Now a skilled project manager will tell you that in order to fit that in, you must take something else out as there is only a certain amount of space available. I have found through experimentation (scenario sample size = 27, I can’t wait for Catherine to find the other 26 items secreted about the van) it’s best not to mention this “bonus requirement” and get on with playing reverse Tetris on your own to make sure the space is available for your own essentials before hitting the road.

*Did you spot and subsequently like my Scottish reference there … please don’t make me spell it out!!!!

About me

I’m an ex-Agile consultant/trainer who embodies Agile thinking, being and doing. I love to write and create word plays that encourage people to think. I’m currently exploring my options as to where to take my career next and would be more than happy to help leaders to evolve their cultures to be more collaborative and creative, making them better places to work. Contact me if you would like to discuss how we can do that.

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