Monday, July 24, 2017

Life Lessons influence Your Agile Coaching

Twenty Seven years later this cover of Time
 magazine still bugs me.  They got it wrong.
Little things remind me of my mortality.  This week I received an invitation to my high school homecoming and a fiftieth birthday party for the class of 1986 afterward.  This reminder of my demise made me do some reflection.  There is nothing like the specter of death to force you to take stock of your life.  This week I wanted to share my revelations.

Demographically, I belong to the Generation X cohort of American history.  Born in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s we were raised in the Reagan 1980’s.  We witnessed the birth of Apple and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  We experienced “Morning in America” and two ugly recessions.  The revolution was televised on MTV, and the counter-revolution came from the White House.  The anxiety of terrorism was nothing compared to the possibility of human extinction caused by mistake in the Cold War.  Plenty of cultural forces mixed to create emulsion which is still relevant today.

As a nerdy Dungeons & Dragons playing child, there was no place to find solace during this period.  I was a striver and wanted to succeed.  There was no internet culture to speak of so I relied on my small circle of friends in theater, JROTC, and scouts to muddle through.  It was a lonely way to grow up.  It was also preparing for my future career because nothing is more solitary that leading change.

Like many people in the early 1990’s, I was adrift.  The job market was lousy, and the prospects for a college graduate were not good.  I worked odd jobs and spent most of my time attempting to be self-sufficient. After working in a casino for a few years, I decided to make a change and become a technology professional.  It was 1998, I was thirty years old, and I began my first entry level job as a Visual Basic developer.  I had found a career.

My career would have numerous ups and downs.  I would confront long term unemployment in the aftermath of the Dot.com bubble.  I would be a consultant, and I would work full time for plenty of companies.  It would take me ten years to learn how to become a competent web developer.  During this period I was exposed to Agile and Scrum.  Since that moment in 2009, I feel like I have gone through a second educational period in my life.  I completed a master’s degree in management.  I became a certified scrum master and then later a certified scrum professional.  I began spreading my experience and knowledge around.  It has been rewarding and fun.

Lately, I have noticed how much cultural opposition within the business community there is to Agile.  It is hard to break old habits and upset personal relationships when you are trying to improve business.  Personal loyalty often takes precedence over doing the right thing for the firm.  There is a lot of understandable fear in the cubicles of America about change and what that means.

Using quantitative measure to judge performance holding people accountable for delivering a quality product, and expecting everyone contributes is controversial among white collar workers.

“It is unfair to measure me to everyone else,” someone I was coaching said.

The reality is it is unfair for someone in the office not to do their job to the best of the ability and cause customer service to suffer.  It is also unfair that you are not improving as your career progresses.  Technology professionals understand this, and it is about time other people in the business community do as well.

So as 2017 drifts lazily into its third, quarter, I am looking forward to the class of 1986 reunion.  My life struggles are a legacy for others to gain experience.  It explains why I enjoy training new developers and helping others avoid the mistakes I made in my career.  Growing old is not as terrible as I suspected.  My life experience has given me the tools to help others, and it just means I have a lot of wisdom to share.  My life prepared me to be the scrum master and the agile coach I am today.  Not a sad thought when you are confronting your mortality.

Until next time.