August 23, 2011
Sometimes I move too fast. Maybe my attention span has been eroded by all of that tweeting and the never ending Facebook updates. I caught myself skimming through a book the other day just so that I could catch “the good parts” or find something that caught my eye. I realized that the book looked pretty good and I would probably enjoy sitting down and reading it. But I put it aside atop my ever growing pile of books I don’t have enough time to read. I’m just too busy right now. I’m sure I’m not alone. Everybody has too many things demanding their attention these days. Children, house, work, friends…and the list goes on. We are cursed with over-rich and over-stimulating lives.
Obviously this has been on my mind of late as I rush about pell-mell from one meeting to the next. I’m starting to get this nagging
feeling that If I could just find a way to slow down a bit, I might be a much more effective person. Well, that begs the question, “What would slowing down look like?” Are there some constructive things I could do to more effectively manage the pace of change in my admittedly all-too-agile life? You see, sometimes I’d rather be really good at just a few things than mediocre at a lot of things.
So what can we do? Here are a few ideas:
- Meditation: (Reflect) Take the time to reflect on what you are doing and how you are living
- Journaling: (Make it Visible) Start to capture the frantic pace. This is the first step toward bringing it under control
- Share it with others: (Transparency, Feedback) Share your experience with others and compare notes.
- Apply time management practices: (Prioritize) Adopt David Allen’s GTD, Personal Kanban, or perhaps the 7 Habits. Whatever works best for you.
- Measure: (Value) Use apps like Mercury App to rate your performance as you work to simplify and focus.
- Stop blogging…Hey! Where did that come from?
Or maybe we should just go over to zenhabits. I’ll let you know how it goes…
December 17, 2010
In Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code, he talks about the different ways that people practice that ultimately enable them to achieve extraordinary results. One the things that he mentions is that a key component of deliberate practice is to speed up or slow down the exercise at hand. He gives some great examples of musicians who are asked to play their music so slowly that the tune would not be recognizable by someone listening to them. Alternatively they are asked to play the music as fast as possible, sort of like a 33 RPM record being played at 78 RPM. What does manipulating the speed do for us? Well, for one thing, it highlights mistakes. Mistakes that you might miss playing at regular tempo may be more readily detected when the pace is dramatically slowed down or sped up.
This strategy is also used by athletes. Dramatically slowing down an exercise is used to detect and fix weaknesses in form. Speeding up the exercise is also used to force mistakes that might normally not occur. The idea is to use varying speed to highlight flaws in performance, which in turn enhances learning. It’s pretty apparent how these strategies apply in music and sports, but how could we apply variations in speed to coaching software teams? A few ideas:
- Vary the length of the time boxes that you do development in. Yeah, you heard me right. Try dramatically shrinking the sprint length down to one week, one day, one hour. On the flip side, you could extend it – double it, triple it, quadruple the sprint duration. I know there are those who will try to convince you that this is a “bad thing”, but take it from me, you won’t go to hell for trying this. Shucks, try eliminating the sprints entirely (an infinite time box?).
- Vary the length of some of the meetings. If your planning meetings are usually an hour, try all day. If they are 4 hours long, try 10 minutes. Is your stand-up meeting always 15 minutes? How about making it thirty seconds!
- Speed up your retrospectives. What would happen if it was like a stream of consciousness game – each person has to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind to describe the sprint. If you don’t answer in 2 seconds then you move on to the next person.
- How slowly can you write code? As an exercise you might find that changing your development pace will have interesting effects. Try out the Pomodoro technique.
Will you make mistakes if you do these things? Hell yes! That’s the point! If you want to learn you need to make mistakes. That means you and your team have to be able to change the variables (in this case: time) in order to push your boundaries and learn new things. What I’m talking about is experimenting with the constraints that you apply to yourself and your team. You can’t experiment like that without breaking a few rules. Let’s face it, if you don’t find anything useful by experimenting with the speed of different activities, you can always return to the status quo and blame me.