My Agile Confession


Maybe it's the recent US election results, maybe it's the overcast Colorado weather, or maybe it's the inevitable end of year reflection.

Whatever the root cause(s), I'm feeling compelled to use this week's article as a confession.

Here goes: I've been trying to do too much.

There, I said it. I feel better already.

After a few weeks of running at a truly breakneck pace, I feel like the subject of this section from Jeff Sutherland's Scrum:

Imagine (or, if you’re unfortunate, remember) having five tasks partially done. You’ve painted one wall of the bathroom, the dog food is still in the trunk, the mortgage check has been written but not mailed, and the leaves are piled up but not bagged. You’ve expended effort but haven’t created any value. Doing half of something is, essentially, doing nothing.

And the truth shall set you free.

As a newly minted solopreneur who gets to set my own hours and run my own days, I figured I could do it all. With no meetings and no boss to make unreasonable demands on my time, what could possibly hold me down?!?

So for the past three months I've been trying to create content for multiple clients, run this site, teach myself to record and edit videos, manage/grow my social media presence, ramp up my speaking business, and churn out guest posts like a boss, all while undertaking a new fitness regimen (and of course caring for my kids and spouse and house).

Oh, and did I mention I'm writing book that has to be published before March?

When I see it all laid out like that, it seems obvious that I have been borderline deluded, and it's completely unsurprising that I've done half (or a third, or a fourth) of a lot of things.

I have expended a lot of effort, but created little of the value I had hoped for.

That's tough for me to admit. But, in the spirit of retrospection (is that a word?), I've identified two areas where I think I can improve: my backlog and my timebox.

Problems With My Current Approach

The first problem seems to be complacency about my backlog.

Having that well-groomed list made everything seem okay. As long as things were out there and visible, they seemed manageable. Which is a good thing, except most of them (with the exception of the deadline-driven content for my clients) weren't ever actually getting Done. I was spreading my time across so many different ideas that none of them were living up to their full potential.

It's a little hard to admit, but instead of allowing me to release early and release often, iteration and increments had become my internal permission to work on too many things at once.

The other issue is a disconnect between my own personal working style and the timebox I've been using (1 week). I'm really good at getting stuff done, but it turns out I'm not good at adding to the workload that I've committed to if time opens up.

For example, if I pull three client articles into my iteration, and I get on a roll and crank through them all before Thursday, I typically don't pull in new work to fill the time. Instead, I spend an afternoon baking, or reorganizing my kids' closets. Crazy stuff, I know.

When I worked for someone else, I was still forced to be in an office even if I was done with my work, so I'd use this "extra" time to strategize, explore new ideas, research, etc. That's what I should do now too, of course, but those closets were getting really out of hand, and they're right upstairs, and the list goes on.

Clearly, it's time to get real with myself and get serious about my methodology, or I'm going to squander a whole lot of hours that I can't afford to throw away.

My current predicament is largely a function of my own personal quirks, but providing a structure for recognizing and managing these workflow impediments -- regardless of whether they come from my personality or my colleagues or my boss -- is part of why I love agile so much.

What I'm Going to Do About It

The time has come to recommit to continuous improvement.

It's becoming clear that timeboxing isn't working for me. I need to just embrace Kanban and leave off iterations altogether.

I'm also thinking my physical backlog isn't doing me any favors, and I need to reexamine using Trello or something similar.

Lastly, I'm looking at my current commitments with the goal of ramping down client work in December to allow me to focus on my passion projects, namely this site and my book, and dialing in my personal work management methodology.

In a lot of ways, managing an agile team is easier than managing myself. But I hope you'll bear with me, and The Agile Marketer, while we navigate our new situations.

In the end, my main goal for this site is to help agile marketing practitioners be better at their jobs, so I want to close this brief confession by asking you a question: What would you like to see on this site? If you could take five seconds to answer that via the survey below, it will help me dial in what I'm working on for this site, which will be enormously helpful.

Here's to reflecting, readjusting, and, above all, continuous improvement.