The lessons of a sprint

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Last week I set myself a task. I'm trying a variant of a 'sprint':

"A sprint is a short, time-boxed period when a team works to complete a set amount of work. Sprints are at the very heart of agile methodologies, and getting sprints right will help your team ship better products with fewer headaches."

Agile Coach

The variant is that I'm doing this by myself rather than in a team. In some sense, I guess this means it's not really a sprint, but for me, I need to practice our new ways of working, so I can get a feel. Mostly, my focus is on staying disciplined and practicing the method. I cannot get distracted and allow myself to fall down the rabbit-hole of a typical day at GSL.

Three days ago I organised my workload into various 'projects'. For me, each one of these represents a 'product'; so it has many components. I chose (what I thought) was a relatively small product and scoped the components. Turns out the product isn't so small and the starting point is dependent on work in a different product area. Lesson number one.

I decided it was important to get the other product progressed sufficiently, to allow me to start the product I'd chosen for the sprint. I allowed one day for the other piece of work and ended up needing another half day. Lesson number two.

When I was in the other project, I found myself becoming immersed. I could have easily continued this piece of work. It took quite some self-discipline to 'park' it and return to my primary task. I was breaking my flow through task switching and it felt very counter-intuitive. Lesson number three.

Lesson one and two were annoying, but lesson three felt uncomfortable. So am I moving out of my 'comfort zone'? I suspect so. I have always allowed myself to pursue flow states, but then, perhaps that is why I finish fewer projects than I start. I love the start of something new. I am a 'starter' rather than a 'finisher'. I could feel all my 'better judgement' coming in to play; my inner voice rationalising why I should stay doing what was fun. In my mind, there were some compelling arguments!

With a sense of determination, yesterday (day two), I parked Product Two work and refocused on Product One. As I progressed, I couldn't help but come up with other little side tasks and ideas that were linked, but technically out of scope for Product One. They were 'value adds' to the work I was doing, but they were intrusive and incredibly distracting. Lesson number four.

I parked these ideas and thoughts in a list, which I will later review for value, and continued. By late yesterday afternoon I pushed out the first iteration of the first component in Product One and sent to the developer. I did it!

Iteration one, of component one in (what I thought was small) Project One. Component two is on the agenda for today.

Sprinting is nowhere near natural yet. Far from it! This challenge I've set for myself is actually proving to be really insightful. I'm learning about all my biases and the work habits that have served in the past but will not be functional in the future.

I believe it takes 60+ days for a new habit to become a routine. 58 days to go, and counting.

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