How do we gain experience?

##agile #digitaltransformation #learning #seniority

At my first corporate job in the 1990s, I used to work on several projects with someone nicknamed The Futurist.

The Futurist was called that because, at the beginning of each project, he would calmly tell you: “You know, this project will go this way, it will probably crash because of this and we’ll be back here in three months.”

This was usually spot on. It wasn’t an ironic nickname. The Futurist’s prediction came to pass.

So, a couple of months, I asked him: “Then, why we do it at all?”

His answer: “This is the way projects are done.”

That answer never satisfied me. When I worked alongside The Futurist, he would work on things that he knew that were useless. In the projects, they would discuss everything perfunctorily and then push on ahead. When questioned, the usual answer was: how do you get experience if you don’t work, then?

Almost a lifetime later, this answer still rings hollow to me.

Experience, theoretically measured by seniority, is just not a matter of simply doing work. You can keep working and be able to forecast a project’s fate, like The Futurist could, but I wouldn’t call that experience. The Futurist had worked for a long time, but that work hasn’t translated into experience and seniority.

This translation’s not automatic. It takes time and effort.

We can think of the generating of experience as four steps; four steps that should be the base for all Retro ceremonies within Scrum, but even outside Scrum, they are precious.

The Four Steps are:

  1. Do The Work: you need to put the time into doing things. You need to fail fast. You need to test your hypothesis. This means two things: getting your hands dirty and getting things done.
  2. Reflecting Together: Every once in a while, reflect as a team. Yes, self-reflection is a vital part of your personal journey. But as long as you are in a team, working towards a common goal, reflection needs to be refined and validated between you all, like anything else.
  3. Getting Feedback: Even if you do your reflection, feedback is the blood that drives improvement. Metrics, pulse surveys, business results. Crave them.
  4. Implementing Changes: So, you have your feedback. You brainstorm, you reflect, you know what to do. It is vital that you do it. While seemingly a trivial thing, I’ve lost count of the number of groups that I’ve seen that know what to change, but never get around to change it. Don’t be like them.

These Four Steps are deceptively simple. What’s hard is the discipline needed to always implement them. But if you achieve it, you move beyond The Futurist into the Changer of Ways, the most important of the archetypes for a Transformation. In order to become that, change yourself.

Learn. Become experienced. Don’t accept things as they are, but always strive to learn. Don’t accept the future just because you see it. The big difference between The Futurist and the Changer of Ways is not the knowledge of what is coming. In that, they are matched.

The difference is on the experience and seniority needed to know that change is possible. And to get there, you need to create both those qualities out of the alchemy of work, reflection, feedback and change.

#agile #digitaltransformation #learning #seniority

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