A while away I had a really successful sprint. I got tons done, made really great progress on some important projects and utilised my time pretty well in general.
I also didn't do practically anything that I was supposed to. I was the classic spiky haired boss that suddenly had a lot of important and urgent matters that I wanted to be handled so I shoehorned them into my week/sprint. You know, because it was important.
This is probably the most classic experience that is had globally when using Scrum. The first team that wanted to concentrate on something for a week was probably made to change their plan because something urgent just came up.
It was fun to get the experience this sort of a situation while being on both sides of the dynamic. I was both the team that had a plan and the manager who had a really important thing I wanted to make happen. For example I needed to prepare some material for a really important meeting on two days notice. Not changing my plans wouldn't have made much sense, as I really didn't have anything time sensitive about my sprint goal or on my sprint backlog, so I just prepared the materials and didn't ask a huge corporation to change their timetables.
On the other hand the sprint goal should be sacrosanct and it's not a great precedent to deviate from it when first time there's sign of something urgent. I could see myself condemning this sort of action if I was a scrum master of a random team while knowing that this time it was obviously the sensible choice to make. Which is what I guess all managers feel when they waltz in and want to interrupt the team and shoehorn something surprising into a sprint.
The funny thing is, that I really don't know what the right takeaway from this experience should be. The road to hell is paved with good intentions of people who bend the rules just this once because it makes so much sense in this particular situation. That's how you usually end up sacrificing long term values that are much more important than what the urgent thing was worth.
On the other hand, sometimes the urgent stuff really is important and the whole point of being agile was to be able to react to things on a short cycle, right?
The last argument isn't really a good one though. Being able to adapt and being able to actually concentrate on something are both important things. Adapting to new things so much you never have time to focus or never finish anything you planned to is a sure way of not being agile. You can't inspect and adapt and improve if you are constantly just reacting to things.
Still, it's just so hard not to run after the exciting an urgent thing, isn't it? As I'm writing this, I start to lean more and more towards to just sticking to the plan and taking the hit for not doing the new, shiny thing and instead trying to have the courage of my convictions.
I also know it would have been really hard to do that. As it probably is to any manager (or CEO or whoever) that needs to say no to a customer or an important stakeholder. Even if it's just a question of postponing something, it's still just so hard not to react.
This post is a letter for myself in the future. When I again want to start chasing after something new, maybe I can remember writing this and have another chance to reconsider. Might still make the same choice, but I want to have to think it through every single time. The point is not to start out perfect but to keep getting better and keep inspecting situations. Just like in agile in general!
Here's to more urgent situations and chances of not being perfect in the future.