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Row, Row, Row Your Boat - or "Making a Meal Out of Agile"

My family recently had a nice long weekend break in the Cotswolds, and I'd left my current project having recently had discussions about agile practices. Two new teammates had just joined us and noted how we should be writing our tickets in terms of business objectives.


With thoughts of work still fresh in my mind, my first holiday activity involved taking my family out one afternoon on a rowboat across a lake. I was doing the rowing, and thus was facing backwards towards my eldest daughter. Since she was facing where we were going, I asked her to give directions.


Rather than pointing to a place in the distance as I'd expected, she instead told me which oar I should use -- "pull with the left one, dad". After clarifying what I meant (a few times), I couldn't help but chuckle. I started asking her to identify her priorities in business terms, and leave the implementation up to me. :-)



Even if my daughter knew exactly what my approach to rowing was or was a better oarsman (oarsperson?) than me, those "micro-managing" instructions weren't helpful. There's no way she could effectively communicate just what force I had to apply to get us to the place we wanted to go. She had to focus on her task (giving directions) and trust me to row us where she was pointing.


The more exposure and longer people work in tech, the more they may know about the details. It's really important for people to know which hat they're wearing in what contexts to provide the right level of detail in order for the team to best work together. Even if I have a good idea of how I would do something, it's important to still phrase tickets in terms of outcomes and results.


It's also important to understand what skills a team has, and how they're best combined to compliment each other.


If it's critical that I feed someone a meal, for example, that doesn't mean I should employ a knife-specialist and a fork-specialist. The general task of "use the cutlery" is best done by a single person (even if that person can't cut as well as a knife-specialist).


I may have gone a bit too far with that last metaphor, and I certainly went too far when suggesting to my family that we have a retrospective after getting off the boat, but I just thought I'd make a note here of that thought-processes for whomever needs to hear it -- which could very well be my future self. :-)



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