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Space Rockets and Agile Programmers Are Doing It…Why Aren’t You?

Space Rockets and Agile Programmers Are Doing It…Why Aren’t You?

    Are you like everyone else when it comes to setting goals? Do you define what you want to achieve and then start working towards your big goal?

    You work hard on a daily basis to reach that goal, but at some point you start to feel frustrated, because you’re not making any noticeable progress after all.

    This makes you very confused and angry, yet you can only blame yourself for this situation. You have made a classic goal-setting mistake.

    Do you know what it is?

    You know your destination…but you are still lost.

    Let me tell you about a real experience I had couple of years ago. This happened when I was competing in a national level triathlon race.

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    A triathlon consists of three different sports (swimming, cycling and running) and every race starts with the swimming part. As soon as the start signal goes off, all the contestants run into the water and start swimming.

    After myself and the rest of the contestants had swam for some time, I realized that this one guy was swimming in the wrong direction. He kept going and going, until at one point he stopped. He realized that he had swam in the wrong direction and now everyone else was in a completely different place. Naturally, he had to change his course and catch up with the rest of us.

    This kind of scenario can happen in your life, whether you are a triathlete or not. You set a goal and start taking action on it, but unfortunately this is not enough. If you don’t know your current position in relation to your goal, then you are going to be like the triathlete I just mentioned; you will keep going and going but your actions will only take you further from your destination.

    When you get further away from your goals, most likely there is one critical piece missing in your goal-setting process. Eventually, this missing piece might get you lost — and even make you quit on your goal.

    Now, you don’t want that to happen, do you?

    Space rockets and agile programmers – you can learn from them

    When a rocket is launched into space, do you think it just follows a straight line from earth to its destination in space?

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    Nope, it doesn’t.

    It makes small adjustments to its course along the way. This is how it stays on track and reaches a very specific but distant destination in space.

    It’s the same with agile programmers: they know exactly where they are in relation to their end goal (a finished application). They make necessary adjustments to their actions along the way if they find that they are on the wrong track.

    Back to you: do you know why you get lost so easily? Well, it’s because you are not adjusting your course like that space rocket, or not following procedures like those agile programmers.

    In both of the previous scenarios, adjustments are made all the time. In contrast, you just set your goal and take action on it, without stopping to correct your course. If you don’t reflect on your current progress and just keep doing your work, then the confusion is inevitable.

    Finally, you should also pay close attention to your attitude.

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    You might think that pausing to reflect is a waste of time (it’s slowing you down), even if you understand the need for it. If you think like this, you clearly need to change your attitude towards the reflection time and understand its true value. Stopping down for a moment could save your whole project. Instead of just blindly taking action, you’ll start to see where you have deviated from your goal and you’ll be able to take corrective action immediately.

    When you are on the right track, you are more motivated to keep on working towards your goal instead of quitting.

    15-minute time block to the rescue

    Let’s talk some Scrum. It belongs to a family of agile software development methodologies and one of its characteristics is a daily 15-minute time-boxed meeting called The Daily Scrum.

    Every day during the 15-minute period, the team has a meeting stood up, where everyone reports their progress by answering three questions:

    1. What have you done since the last meeting?
    2. What are you planning to finish by the next meeting?
    3. Is there anything standing in your way?

    With these questions, it’s easy to see what everyone has been up to, what’s going to happen next, and if there are any issues that might be stopping the developers’ progress.

    “Ok, so this stuff is for software developers,” I hear you say. “How does that help me?”

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    This is exactly what we are going to find out next.

    Reach your destination – by slowing down the smart way!

    Daily Scrums can be applied on your own work as well. Let’s see how to do it:

    1. Know your goal and sub-goals. It goes without saying that you should have a clear and explicitly defined goal, as well as milestones related to your end goal. If you don’t have this plan set, then do it now.
    2. Schedule and location. Schedule a 15-minute block on your calendar, which occurs every day, at the same location, at the same time. To make sure you don’t exceed the 15-minute limit, get a timer, set it to 15 minutes and start it as soon as your meeting starts. The best time for this is before the end of your working day. This way, you have some kind of idea what you have done, if you have encountered any issues and what you  want to do next. The fixed location helps you to form the Daily Scrum habit.
    3. Have your meeting. Answer the three Scrum questions I mentioned earlier and write them down in a document. Then, spend some time figuring out if you are on the right track in relation to your goals.
    4. Take action accordingly. Once you have had your Daily Scrum, form a plan for what to do next. Do you need to do something differently? What does it take to remove the obstacles in your way?

    Take a moment to think about the best answers to these questions.

    Conclusion

    As you can see, daily reflection is very important so that you can see where you are in relation to your goal. Otherwise you could be working hard for nothing. In a worst case scenario, you may have to start your work all over again.

    With a 15-minute daily meeting, you can stay on track and take corrective action right away, instead of doing it weeks or even months after starting your work.

    Over to you: how do you keep track of your current situation in relation to your goals? Do you review your work in any way? Please share your comments and experiences on the comment area.

    (Photo credit: Old Compass via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 18, 2019

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

    These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

    58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

    Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

    Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

    1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

    The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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    Encourage Your Employees

    When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

    Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

    Offer Rewards

    Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

    The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

    Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

    Give Autonomy

    Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

    Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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    Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

    2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

    I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

    Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

    For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

    We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

    Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

    A To Do Scheduling System

    Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

    The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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    I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

    With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

    Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

    3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

    The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

    “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

    An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

    What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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    Ask If They like What They’re Doing

    If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

    There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

    The Bottom Line

    Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

    Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

    For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

    Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

    More Resources About Team Management

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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