Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time to use your Scrum Senses

Scrum is about learning and taking action. There are many ways to learn, the most elemental of which we use as infants: we explore the world with our senses. While that sounds easy, effectively using your senses takes practice. Gladly, opportunities for practicing your Scrum senses are plenty. Here are just a few ways to begin.


Try looking at people you work with. I know you see them every day, but are you actually looking at them? Looking means more than just resting your eyes on people. Really seeing requires you to actively try to decipher people’s body language. What might their actions be trying to tell you that their words are not? Look closely at the person you are talking to. Is her body resisting your advice while her mouth is busy thanking you for it? Once you notice a disparity between body language and words, act on it. Ask questions aimed at uncovering the emotions hidden behind the mask of politeness that we often wear.
While our favorite thing to listen to is often the sound of our own voice, you can’t listen while you are talking. If you find yourself discussing a topic of which you are fond, you have found an opportunity to practice shutting up. I myself have to practice break-taking very diligently. If I don’t, I can go on and on until your ears come off. If you wonder if you are monopolizing conversations, try inserting forced breaks into your monologues. Start by putting a thirty-ten limit on yourself. Speak for thirty seconds, shut up for ten. Ten seconds might feel far longer than you thought it would. (If it does, you might have learned something about yourself. Latch on to that something and think about what it’s trying to tell you.) If you’re lucky, someone else will jump in during the ten-second break and fill the silence. Once they do, you can sit back and practice your listening skills. You will probably gather information you wouldn’t have had if you’d spent the same time talking. To keep them talking, ask questions. Learn more.
You don’t have to focus solely on others. There is a great deal to be learned from honing in on yourself once in a while. Notice your own body. If it’s tense—curled up and ready to snap at a touch—that’s probably not a good sign. Don’t ignore it. Think about why it’s behaving like that. Maybe it’s trying to remind you that it’s okay to get angry at times, or maybe you just need to switch office chairs. In either case, you’ve got something you can learn from and act on.
There is one danger to avoid in using your senses: you do not always understand what they are telling you. They can collude with your brain to fool you—to make you think that you actually understand other people. You probably don’t. It’s not a hard problem to solve though. All you have to do is tell people what you think you just sensed; they will sometimes be more than happy to tell you if you sensed correctly.

How will using your senses help you with Scrum? If you use your Scrum senses wisely, you can uncover information where you previously saw none. You might see problems where you once only observed ignorant bliss and conflicts where formerly you saw only slap-on-the-back team spirit. By learning from this information, you will be able to eliminate impediments, improve productivity, and slowly make your world a slightly more pleasant place to be.