My Agile Life: Trust

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

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life! This one actually gets into my writing – and someone else’s writing.  And work.  Let’s get to it.

So last week I wrote about how the Second Agile Principle helped me deal with changes to my book.  Short form, I learned how to better embrace change and my writing is better for it (despite my resistance).

This got my friend Serdar thinking about his next book, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, and he did his own post on change.  Here’s where he hits on something very important to Agile – personal and professional:

To wit: At one point when writing Flight of the Vajra — in the first draft, mind you — I abandoned several thousand words and backed up a fair distance in the story so that I could explore what seemed a far more fruitful plotline than the one I had cul-de-sac’d in. Better to turn around than to keep fighting against odds I hadn’t a chance of bucking. It meant losing several days worth of work, but when you put faith in the process rather than the resulting artifacts, those hard decisions aren’t so hard anymore.

Agile relies on a lot of trust.  Without trust, Agile falls apart (which I’ve seen plenty of times).  Think about it:

  • You have to trust your Product Owner that they know what they’re doing with their directions.
  • You have to trust your teammates to do their work.
  • You have to trust the Scrum Master to have your back.
  • You have to trust the processes to help you get the job done.
  • You have to trust yourself to do things right.

In personal agile it’s the same thing.  You have to trust yourself, build processes you trust, and keep improving things so you trust they get better.  Personal agile like I use will very quickly show you places in your mind where you don’t trust yourself.

But here’s the funny thing – you trust a lot of things.  But you don’t trust the product or even the product backlog as some kind of perfect result or guide.  Serdar rightly says the artifacts of writing aren’t to be trusted, and I’d add even the artifacts that lead to writing – or any other actions – aren’t to be trusted.  Be it plans for software or a book, they will change.

In fact, trusting your current plans on anything is going to trap you.  Change is inevitable.  The most trustworthy plan will fall apart because the world shifted around it.

Instead you have to trust the processes that keep you going forward. Your sprint standups, backlog planning, the act of writing or coding or whatever.  You trust in them to do good work, get feedback, and set direction.  Good direction – in the forms of backlogs, plans, user stories, etc. – is the result of trustworthy people and processes.  But it is not as important – or as reliable – as they are.

It’s not the map, it’s the confidence of the person giving you directions to help you get to your destination.

In your life, in your own projects, in your Agile (at home and at work) – are you trusting the people and the methods?  Can you?

If not, my guess is you’re none too happy.

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

– Steve

Why We Write, Why We Wrong

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

Over at his blog my friend Serdar talked about why people write. Some people, he notes, want all the benefits and the aura of being a writer . . . except they’re not too up on the “writing” part of it. To be a writer, you have to write.

And Serdar, like Brad at Hardcore Zen, and like myself note it’s a kind of compulsion.

I write because it’s something I do. I craft words, tell stories, organize information. I’m not exactly sure why – these are traits all humans have, for me and others its just pronounced. We do it more often than they do. It’s who we are.

Now you have to work on it, as Serdar notes, something not everyone else does. Me, I self-publish a lot of stuff, I’ve yet to “hit it big,” I may never do so. But that’s not my goal.

And that’s the crux of being a writer – it’s something you do, but you also apply yourself to figure what you can and should do with it. That’s where many, many writer’s break down.

Because here’s the rub – writing is not just writing nor is it just improving it – it’s knowing what the hell to do with it to reach your goals. Write all you want, but if you want to do something with it you have to ask just what your goals are.

I’ve met many people who want to write, but they want to write under highly specific conditions. They want to be a writer and be paid – but in this genre and at this pay rate and so on. No, if you want to be paid as a writer you write, and that leads you to either A) write whatever pays the bils, or B) work your butt off on your focus to become very, very good (depending what “good” is).

I’ve met people who write but for fun and occasionally wonder what more they “should” do – when maybe all you want to do is write fanfic and that’s perfectly OK. That’s good, that’s fine.

Or there’s me, who likes writing, likes helping people and cataloging knowledge, and does it as a kind of hobby that occasionally makes money. It’s a skill I like using and would like to use more, so I’m gladly learning and seeing what more I can do with it.

But that’s my schtick.

So if you want to write figure your goals and go and channel that writing into succeeding. But if you don’t do something with it, you’re never going to get much done.

  • Steve