The Great Screaming Treadmill of Doom

I have a few pet phrases for that exhausted feeling you get when facing yet another project: The Mighty Exercycle of the Apocalypse, or The Great Screaming Treadmill of Doom, and my personal favorite: The Harrowing Habitrail of Hopelessness. It’s that “Oh no, not again!” staring-down-a-gun-barrel feeling you get when confronted with yet another mediocre project.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling this emotion. No matter what process you use, whether it’s Waterfall, XP, or Scrum, sooner or later you run into this problem. Unfortunately in the corporate world, the reward for successfully finishing projects is even more projects (Whoopee!). Sooner or later that starts to get old. Especially when it’s the same old stuff. Sometimes I think management is just curious to see how long you can keep it up. Pretty soon you are asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

In the words of King Osric in Conan the Barbarian:

“There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father’s love for his child.”

OK, maybe not that last bit about the kid, but you get the idea (I’ll have to follow up with another blog on how to use inappropriate quotes…). So back to my topic – what do you do when you realize you are riding The Great Screaming Treadmill of Doom? Put on your sneakers?

No. Here are a few of the things I do:

  1. Start with the customer: OK, I’m not passionate about this project, but how about the customer? If they are excited, then I tend to get excited too. In fact, one of the best ways for me to reinvigorate myself is to attend a customer conference – I get tremendous energy out of that kind of interaction
  2. Start with the team: What do they want to do? Are they energized or not? If I’m having a bad day, the team can often mellow me out in record time. Usually there is a beer involved…
  3. Start with the retrospective: When I’ve participated in the perfect project I plan to announce it on this blog. Until that day, I can usually go to the last retrospective and find a long list of things I can improve. If I focus on the improvement, everybody wins.

These things may or may not work for you. It just may be that it’s finally time to sit down and seriously ask yourself the big “Why” questions. If that’s the case, then I recommend that you do it sooner rather than later. Every time I wait to ask myself those questions I tend to regret it.

2 Responses to The Great Screaming Treadmill of Doom

  1. Guillaume says:

    Personally, when the work becomes monotone, I like to focus on process, seeing how it could be improved, which waste can be removed, come up with new ideas, etc…

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