Ski it if you can
Half the space of a table saw and sixteen times as useful...

The Arguability of Busy


The list is random and useless. As a project manager, it's killing me and that's probably how it got itself balled up and tossed on the bed. The PM wants start and stop dates; dependencies and penalties; assignments and level of effort. The PM wants to understand the outcome and here we go...

There's just this one inevitable outcome and it could happen in the next thirty seconds.  I'm assuming one of those trees might fall through the roof for no good reason other than it's time. When I bother to think about the tree my priorities start sliding around like those fifteen tile puzzles with one empty space. I didn't have the patience, or didn't see the point. When I was nine, I pried a tile off the square, set the rest of them in order and moved on. Is that cheating or jumping the tracks? Or is it a life hack?


My children are super busy and exhausted and I'm listening to myself Friday after Thanksgiving. I mention something about being exhausted and I'm rewarded with three identical snarls. I know their fathers are stress puppies; one, extremely vocal and the other, well, you just kind of see it. Me? I win that contest hands down. They've been watching us all their lives.

Before I went back to work, C noted I was always busy. Even when I was still, I seemed to be doing something. The only thing that changed when I sat myself back in front of the monitor was the direction of energy. 

All that's fine until we get to this:

'I can't.'


My children are booked for Christmas and I wasn't consulted. Should I have been? Not necessarily, but it hurt anyway and I spent the next couple of days trying to figure out why, which turned out to have very little to do with Christmas or my children. The root of the angst is the 'I can't'. Not theirs, so much as mine. It's the fault of the list which is the thing in my head that dictates my life. MY life. 

I want to find one of those squares, pop a tile, and slip the pieces into my pocket. I'll sand the numbers off because they're problematic; from one moment to the next we understand the weight of a thing. The struggle isn't getting the list in order, it's understanding that order is a fallacy. 


In Agile development a team is presented with a project. They have a start and end date but aren't quite sure what it all means and less sure how long a part might take to complete. So you know what they do? This is either the coolest or freakiest thing ever (depending on how you're currently viewing the world). They take out a deck of cards with a repeating series of seven numbers and a symbol. The first number doesn't count and the second is a discard.

0 1 3 5 8 13 21...{insert symbol for infinity here, Typepad can't do it}

The premise of Agile development is that far more can be done faster with smaller chunks. For example, if I determine that something has a weight of 13, I will accomplish it faster if I break it into a five and an eight. Here comes the good part.

All players are dealt a hand, presumably one of each number or symbol, and when a task is on the table each player puts a card down. Someone thinks three while another knows better or has no idea, and tosses down thirteen. The problem can be solved by voting or by taking the closest average - even if no one really knows. 

The even better part:

We adjust accordingly. 

A list is made, what we think are reasonable chunks of a project are kept, and the rest go onto the backlog list. And we adjust accordingly. 


In the beginning, when we jump from Waterfall (the whole damn project start to finish) to Agile, the collective experiences an existential crisis until the scrum master (yup, that's what we call the PM) says: GET A MOVE ON, PEOPLE!

Sliding the numbers, the tiles, the priorities is not an either or; it's a shifting of weight and the belief in 'yes I can'.

I just don't know what it's going to look like. Gak! The unknown. It's OK. Get a fork, or a knife out of the kitchen drawer and pry something up.