Years ago, I watched Kent Beck’s talk on finding ease at work. He described death marches and unsustainable pace. He told stories of people having their humanity ignored, resulting in burn out and depression. Though, I was yet to experience life as part of a development team, my college experience allowed me to identify with those stories.
He went on to discuss the pendulum swing between two states of engineering, the highs of being the team hero and the lows of being a failure. Hero moments can come immediately following a successful late night of coding. Though, depression can follow the same event. In a world where late nights are common, so is the swinging between hero and failure. I have strived in my career so far, to avoid that instability. However, in the past few years, I have found a different type of instability, my expectations.
My worst experiences causes me to be overly cautious, and my best experiences can make me extremely optimistic. The delta between reality and expectations can brew unhappiness, even when the work itself is not objectively difficult or draining. Since, every team is different I have to constantly reset expectations, both mine and my team members’.
I attempt to reset expectations by reframing my thoughts. Thinking first from the current world and then how I might improve it, rather than starting at an ideal state. Retrospectives and pair +/deltas, help me focus on improvement. I also have started to say out loud things that will never be true for the team (at least in the near term). Allowing me to focus effort on other potential wins.
Finally, I remind myself that jumping to some arbitrary set of practices might actually hurt the team I am currently on. I also note that, such a move is inherently contradictory to the values espoused by the agile movement. It would put a “fun” process ahead of people.
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