📬 The Backlog

📬 The Backlog is Thomas van Zuijlen's weekly newsletter on practical agility, with annotated articles on Scrum, facilitation, collaboration, and (product) development.

24 July 2023

🥳 The Backlog #200

Make priority trade-offs explicit with ‘even/over’ statements, practice flexibility by being more rigid with your team's focus time, and swim against the current by following someone else’s thought piece.

While this issue of The Backlog is about making deliberate choices for one thing while acknowledging the truth or value of another…

…it is also the 200th released iteration! 🥳 I’m proud to make it this far, thanks for reading along with me. I bought us some trees to celebrate the occasion. You should do stuff like that, too - just find a reason, pick a number and click your way to some saplings. 🌱 Nice for our home! 🌍

OK, on to it.

  1. Sumeet Moghe of Asynchronous agile is a flexibility advocate. But without agreeing on rules and limitations, flexibility is wasted on teams new to the practice of asynchronous collaboration.

    In his article Extreme flexibility needs great maturity, Moghe explains how to grow in your practice of self-discipline by and suggests ‘eating the frog’ by blocking the first half of your days for focus work: “if you get meaningful work done in the first half of the day, you can approach any meetings you have in the second half, with a sense of positivity.”

    Moghe name-checks Patrick Lencioni, saying “To get past the storm, lay down the norm,” by which he means that this focus work reservation should go hand-in-hand with a team agreement about working hours and connectivity.

    Moghe sees the apparent dissonance of a radical flexibility-ist advocating for agreed boundaries, but (paraphrasing) you’ve got to start somewhere. According to Moghe, starting with sensible defaults is the way to go.

  2. You can’t have it both ways. But as the signatories of the manifesto for agile software development will know, it’s still a great idea to mention both alternatives.

    Jurriaan Kamer and Clare Wieck of The Ready advocate the idea of using Even/Over Statements: The Prioritization Tool That Brings Your Strategy to Life. Both top-down and bottom-up decisions can be made and seen consistently by shedding light on the two positives between which a choice has been made. Like, “Honest feedback even over harmony”. While there is value in the item on the right… you know how it goes.

    Kamer and Wieck shed light on the empowering effect of succinctly worded even/over statements from leaders. Their article also includes an outline for a mini workshop to formulate adjacent even/over statements with teams.

    I liked the Patagonia example they use to explain that it’s better to choose explicitly and that you’re setting yourself up for failure if you reject choice. After all:

    “Your power lies in choosing your trade-offs consciously. If you don’t choose your own trade-offs, the world around you will decide them for you.”

  3. Jay Melone wrote an expressive piece on “unlearning to tread in the rivers and streams that drown us and instead swim in waters that lead us to our fullest potential.” His Against the current is also a story about choices, and how we (don’t) make them every day. For your inspiration.

    “They don’t realize they have that level of power over their lives, if they’re willing to do the work.”

Make interesting choices for yourself this week, and Scrum on,
Thomas van Zuijlen

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