It's always both refreshing and comforting to read a "confession of..." piece from someone who is struggling to find success in their particular area of endeavour. Refreshing because, honestly, it is still a human rarity to admit a weakness or divulge a failure, and comforting because it is reassuring to find that you are not the only one facing a specific challenge.
So, it was with great relief that I read this frank post from Andrea Fryear, writing for theagilemarketer.net, about her pains to implement a pure agile approach to her marketing workload.
Delivering client work, running and growing her own business, juggling family life and, just the small matter of writing a book as a side project, "hopeless #AgileMarketing nerd", Fryear, seeks to manage her world using an Agile approach.
But, whilst she has the agile structure in place to organise tasks and activities - if you know Agile, it's that framework for transitioning defined and manageable jobs from "to do" to "in progress" to "done" - she admits that things just weren't working as they might.
She says: "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."
She acknowledged that part of the issue lay in overloading her task list and constantly reiterating ideas/activities (one of Agile's great strengths) had essentially given her "internal permission to work on too many things at once", but not always allowing her to finish them.
And as a business still in the first year of Agile adoption, it is easy to empathise with this. Having adopted a scrum approach ourselves, we too battle with overloading our "sprints", in other words the volume of work that we are looking as a team to achieve in a given time [sprint] period. And we feel the weight of this overburdening as we near the end of a sprint; when we recognise that our ambitions to achieve "x" were never going to be realised, particularly given that "y" suddenly became an unforeseen priority.
Now, we shouldn't beat ourselves up too badly, for in some ways it's the nature of the beast - particularly in digital marketing - that orders of precedence change quickly. And Agile happily gives us the flexibility to respond that change. But then, in my mind, we also have to combine this agility with a commitment to clarity and realism when we plan out each sprint. Let's try not to do everything and instead, let's be asking ourselves, what can be achieved by the team in the next timeframe that will make the most difference?
Phew, thanks for your honesty Andrea Fryear, feels good to get that off my chest...
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.