LeanDog Extreme Meeting

What is an Extreme Meeting?

Stairs made it "easier"
I definitely have to give the nod to Jon Stahl on this one. I'm not sure where he got the idea. I've not asked. But it wouldn't surprise me if he came up with it all on his own. If you know Jon, you know what many of us would consider extreme is pretty commonplace for him. If you get the opportunity to sit down with him and you don't want to talk about agile or lean, be sure to ask him about his trip to the far north. It is an epic story.

The basic premise is simple; get out and do something that tests your stamina, creates a sense of team, and allows you to have discussions you might not otherwise have.

So far, I have to say I am a fan. I liked the concept, but was apprehensive of the potential outcome. My primary concern was if everyone could make a 14 mile challenging hike. We placed a vehicle at the turn-around point, which helped. We also chose a route that started easy, got more difficult, and then ended very flat and easy. Warm up, work hard, cool down.

Format

Pre-Event
Status Update
We preselected a few important strategic topics. Individuals were assigned responsibility for the items. To be quite specific, we ran an A3 process several days prior to the hike. But the A3 piece is not necessary, only a select set of key topics and an "owner" for each topic.
Iterations
We were headed out for a 14 mile hike, so we broke the hike up into sections approximately three miles each. The team met at the trail head and each topic owner gave a brief overview of their item. We then split up into small groups, each focused on a specific topic.

Jon Selects a Lunch Spot
We hiked a leg of the trail, talking over our thoughts and ideas on the specific topic. The topic owner facilitated the session, making sure we stayed near enough to the original topic, without entirely dominating and controlling the discussion.

At the end of each leg, we briefly discussed the experience as a larger group. We then split up into new groups. We decided at each point if we wanted to retire a topic and introduce a new one or continue with a prior topic. It was all quite dynamic and the general lack of formal agenda allowed us to organize around things as we thought necessary.

Retrospective

Discussing Strategy
At the end of the hike, we met at The Winking Lizard in Peninsula, OH. The Lizard is a wings and beer pub that has been around for many years. It was a nice venue to wind-down, have a drink, and get something to eat.

We generally agreed to try mini-presentations at each break. This would allow each of us to get a quick (3-minute) update on each of the topics.

Next Event

We are thinking about an over-night canoe trip for the next one. Clearly, this will have to wait until the weather is more appropriate. Other suggestions were sky diving, rappelling, and white water rafting. They all sound fun (or at least extreme), but it is important that the activity provide for discussion first and foremost. I, for one, would have a hard time holding a conversation while simultaneously fighting to hold down my lunch.

One week of this positivember crap

You know, this wasn't as easy as I thought it would be - this whole being positive thing. I made it really hard on myself at first. If I faltered, if I had a negative thought or got frustrated, I got down on myself for not doing better. After about 36 hours of that, I realized that getting down on myself was certainly not in the spirit of positivember. I realized that it was not a lack of negativity that I needed to focus on, rather an increase in positivity. Not happy fluffy bunny stuff with cotton candy and unicorns and rainbows. Although unicorns are cool. But just looking for the good in others, the positive of the moment, or how I could do something to make the day of another a little better.

So I decided to allow myself to get down or grumpy or frustrated, but only for a moment. And rather than admonish myself for having done so, I'd make an effort to counter the negativity and then surpass it. After about 36 hours of that, I realized I wasn't feeling negative nearly as often. I was actually feeling pretty positive.

I also decided to learn something new every day in November. It doesn't have to be huge, but I do have to make an active effort to achieve it. If I happen to pick something up along the way (which I often do), that doesn't count. And in the last week, I've learned a bit more about vim, I've taken another look at closures in javascript, and I've worked my way deeper into the clojure koans.

I know it is only day seven, but November is shaping up nicely.

Honestly, I see no reason to limit myself to just one month. Maybe I'll try to keep the streak going until the end of the year.

Keep your ears, your eyes, and your mind open

Developers shouldn't specialize

Davey Brion wrote a post not too long ago warning developers about the dangers of specializing in a particular technology.

The real message

Davey concludes his post with the following paragraph:
"Keep your ears, your eyes and your mind open. If you notice that a group of people gets excited about something new, then figure out why. If you notice that something appears to be working well for others, then figure out why. If you notice an increasing stream of criticism on the technology you’re using, then figure out why. You’ll need information like this to make well-founded decisions about your future."
If you are a practitioner of Lean, you are likely to find yourself trying to convince others that they should focus on one item at a time and observe the flow of work. If you are a practitioner of Scrum, you are likely to find yourself trying to convince others that they need to commit to an amount of work each iteration and observe the burn down. And if you are a practitioner of XP, you are likely to find yourself trying to convince others they need to use TDD, pair programming, and other engineering practices.

There are good ideas in each of these approaches. There are a few conflicting ideas, certainly. But there is a lot more in common than there is different. And there are valuable ideas from each that fill gaping holes in the others.

When you focus on a single approach, you not only constrict your ability to grow and learn, but worse, you cultivate a bias. When the information you receive is accepted or rejected based on how consistent it is with your current thinking, you limit your ability to make new distinctions.

I encourage you to follow Davey's advice. Pay attention to the buzz around new ideas. Rather than figure out how to tear it down and dismiss it, find what it offers that is of value. If you hear of others achieving success with other approaches, investigate and seek new ideas you can adopt. Pay attention to the frequent criticisms of your own ideas. Rather than immediately trying to defend your ideas, give legitimate consideration to why this counter-perception exists and if there is anything you can learn from it.