In the morning, demand an account of your self for the night which is past and draw up for yourself a program for the day that lies ahead. In the evening, call a reckoning of the day which has passed and lay down a rule for the night which is coming. If you are strict in this way you will not have the leisure to seek inordinate pleasure.
- William of St. Thierry
At some point in my life I became an early riser. Not real sure how it happened, but it’s there and I like it. This time for me is a time of quiet and solitude. A time to listen to the city come alive and the birds sing. I often read and meditate during these moments of quiet and recently I came across the quote above in a book, which is describing life in a monastery for a new entrant. The idea being follow these ideas and you’ll find yourself on the path for which you came here.
My thoughts on this morning rocked back and forth from an 11th century monk to a modern day agile developer. Odd, right? Each has is practice of solitude where he pursues his craft with excellence. The monk creating fudge or beer and cheese, while the developer is creating clean and delicate code. The monk with his fudge paddle in silence, while the developer has his headphones on and hands on the keyboard. To each his own form of solitude and in likeness their craft being the output of the day.
The thing that kept coming back to me was the idea of “In the morning, demand and account of yourself… and draw up for yourself a program for the day that lies ahead.” I realize there is no prescribed time for daily stand-ups in agile, but the simplicity of doing a stand-up as you start your day jumps out at me. It lays out before you the work you hope to accomplish and as you stand before the team or your community in the monastery you commit to doing what you can today as long as it’s called today.
Each in his own form, but yet with centuries between them the monk and the agile developer have the idea of gathering their thoughts and preparing for the day set out before them.
Can you see the similarity? Do you see, on a personal level, the possibility of retrospective on a daily basis?
Awareness that the current process is not delivering acceptable results.
(Succeeding with Agile, Cohn, p21)
Awareness is a great producer of change. If we could see the forest there would be no need for change, but often in life and software development we find ourselves hidden behind a giant redwood unable to see what is coming on the other side.
That redwood could take the form of a process that when you look deep within it has nothing to do with agile or any of the principles behind it. It could also take the form of feedback that overlooks all the great things you have produced only to focus on what you haven’t been able to accomplish.
Either way awareness of the situation and how “the current process is not delivering acceptable results” is something that should be embraced. These are times where you could sink or swim and which direction you go in the deep end depends on your ability to accept and adapt to the knowledge you have received. If you run or sluff off this knowledge you will most surely sink to the bottom.
I fully believe the majority of development teams want to produce a great product, but at times each team will get stuck behind a redwood. If you find yourself sitting behind a redwood today keep these ideas in mind when you start to pull back and see the forest again.
- “Working software over comprehensive documentation”
- “Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage”
Has your team ever found itself behind a redwood? How did you get out from behind it?
If you’ve never heard yourself described in such a manner it might come as a shock that someone might think this way about you. For those of you that have humility figured out and have never caused a situation which would allow you to hear such words about yourself and definitely have never thought/spoken them about others then carry on “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for…”
But for the rest of us, outbursts and jagged descriptions like this can provide opportunities that drive us to introspection and hopefully change. Today has been one of those days for me and the word that has been on my mind is Humility. It’s not a direct thought, but the product of meditating upon pride and arrogance in the workplace. In it’s simplest form humility is defined as “not proud or arrogant; modest”. To expound a bit with the help of Dictionary.com:
making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud
having, proceeding from, or showing a high opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, or superiority.
Regardless of your title or tenure at a given place of employment arrogance and pride can lead to isolation and depending on the size of the team could lead to impediments to delivering quality product. If you view your skills leads you to set traps for your teammates, which once triggered brings forth presumptuous and rude remarks about their skills, you might find yourself in a similar place as the boy who cried wolf. Being in the place not only hinders your current employment, but could also hinder the teams success and hit the bottom line for the company.
I’d like to challenge you for that next time you hear yourself described as a “Crass, Arrogant Redneck” to take the opportunity to learn and change rather than challenge and unleash hell. Don’t perpetuate the web of traps you continue to weave to protect your ego. Take on the form of a humble servant and actively listen to the person’s objections/concerns towards your approach and words. Ask them questions about how you offended them and then listen. Don’t justify yourself.
As employees we are there to serve the company and those on our team that run beside us towards greater goals than ourselves. When our pride hinders the progress of the team and erects walls that hinder progress we need to evaluate why we do what we do, but more importantly how do we reconcile with the team and address those walls we have erected in those hellish outbursts.
Next time you hear harsh words or even mild constructive criticism listen, meditate on what you hear and then takes steps to change and reconcile if the situation requires it.