My Agile Life: That Glorious Flow

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

I’m using Scrum to help order my own life. It’s going pretty well, and one of the things that helps is ease of communication, because most of my communication is with me. That’s the Agile ideal of regular, personal communications among team members made easier by me being pretty much the team.  Communication is easy when its in your own head.

This made me think about Scrum and Agile methods when multiple people are involved, from developers to customers. The clarity of my own Scrum-At-Home made me realize how many projects are held up by poor communication, even supposedly Agile ones.

How often is communication delayed on a project? An hour delay in communication can mean days of delay in a project.

How often is communication withheld to avoid conflict or trouble? A lack of information ultimately has to be made up for.

How often is communication handled by some people that aren’t doing, testing, or otherwise involved in the work? Someone abstract from the results will be abstract in their communication.

How often is communication the result of endless layers of people? It becomes a game of telephone operator, of checking and re-checking.

A lot of projects go wrong because of communication.  This is why communication matters, and why the Agile manifesto is almost entirely about communication:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – TALK directly to people.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation – RESULTS over documenting them.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – WORK with people over messing around with fiddly pits.
  • Responding to change over following a plan – CHANGE in response to information.

Running a “Scrum of One” gives you an idea of what near-perfect communication is since you’re the only one involved. That feeling of flow, of productivity, is what you should be feeling in Agile projects at work. When you don’t feel that, something’s wrong.

My guess is you’re used to feeling something is wrong in your projects.

This is one of the many reasons I reccomend personal Agile to people. Done right, you know what real productivity feels like, real communication. Done right, you learn lessons you can apply.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve