One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know. Groucho Marx
As I was getting ready for work this morning my husband mentioned that you could tell how busy I had been with work because I have not posted anything yet this month. Of course he was right as he always is or at least likes to think he is when he gives me advice. As I was driving to the office, I pondered a bit on my busyness. These past weeks have gone by in a bit of a blur. When I reflect on what I have been doing I see it as trying to eat an elephant. I love this analogy as it says it all. The work project I am focused on has many moving parts and at times has seemed like a wooly mammoth. But when faced with something as large and important as this, I just need to step back and remember, “when eating an elephant take one bite at a time” (Creighton Abrams).
Analyzing the project and determining for the milestones what the key tasks are to make those significant milestones happen on time was the first bite. The second bite got a bit easier to define and swallow. Just brainstorming with the team and getting down on paper those things that needed to be in place in order for us to be able to consume the elephant bite by bite has helped to alleviate the project stress.
I have found that it is very easy in our agile development environment to get so heads down focused on what has to happen to make each weeks sprint deadline, that we can easily lose sight of where we are at for achieving the end goal – eating the entire elephant. We get lost wading through the elephant dung instead of jumping up and making sure we are really eating part of the elephant itself. Can you tell I love this analogy?
The teams dining on this elephant are talented, capable, and have a big appetite. They just need a few Tums once in a while. Well, I guess that must make me the Antacid of Development. Hopefully, I am not seen as the cause of their heartburn.
The essence of our agile Development methodology, SCRUM, is to break down the project into small deliverables (stories) that can be achieved in a short time frame (sprint) to demonstrate progress. It’s those little bites of the elephant that we nibble away at every week. When faced with what can seem an insurmountable task, whether it is a wooly mammoth or just an ordinary elephant, stepping back and breaking it down into bite size chunks is the only way to really finish the job. It can just be a bit overwhelming if we don’t look up once in a while and gauge the progress we have made and understand whether we’ve still got only 4 legs and the tail left or if we have only taken a bite out of the rump.
For those of you familiar with SCRUM you might ask why the burn down chart does not show us this. But if you have lived in a SCRUM world you also know that sometimes the burn down chart becomes a burn up chart or in other words the elephant grew a new tusk along the way. Controlling this during the sprint cycle is the key to success for the project. Being agile means letting the elephant grow a bit or change color but still gnawing away at it.
By now you probably think that this is all elephant dung, but it’s my story for why I have not been posting as faithfully as I would have liked so far this year. I am confident that we can eat this elephant and I will wade out of the dung and post more diligently.