This is a transcript of episode 233 of the Troubleshooting Agile podcast with Jeffrey Fredrick and Douglas Squirrel.
Taking iterative development to heart, Squirrel and Jeffrey discuss a learning loop topic, basic daily learning loop, in five minutes or fewer. Take just a few minutes with us to improve your team’s learning and speed!
Squirrel: Welcome back to Troubleshooting Agile. Hi there, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Thanks, Squirrel.
Squirrel: So there are our theme for the summer is learning loops. Jeffrey, when is a learning loop better?
Jeffrey: When they’re faster.
Squirrel: Exactly! So that’s what we’re going to do this summer: summer shorts. This week we’re going to talk about a learning loop topic, but we only have 5 minutes. Do you think we can do it?
Jeffrey: Oh, I think we can.
Squirrel: Great. Then here we go.
Basic Daily Learning Loop
Squirrel: Okay Jeffrey, we’ve got 5 minutes. Basic learning loops. What are they? Daily loop. How do we do it?
Jeffrey: Okay, so the daily loop is something you can do with a team or individually. It’s about starting your day with a plan, and then checking in at the end of the day to see how things went.
Squirrel: Sounds easy. Doesn’t everybody do that?
Jeffrey: Surprisingly, no! I think it’s very common for people to not do this in various ways. One way is you can have the form of it, but without the learning. When I come across people who are unhappy about their standups, often it’s because their standup doesn’t have any sort of learning focus, it’s just a discussion of what people have done, and there’s no real focus on it.
Squirrel: If your standup is boring, don’t do it that way. Do something different. Your standup should never, ever be boring.
Jeffrey: That’s right! You should be energized. Part of what makes it energizing is that we’re going to focus the conversation. “What is it that we plan to do?” Then at the end of the day, I like to end with a daily demo of “This is what we did, and how did that go compared to what we expected.” These things continue to lead into then the next day you can say, “Well given what we learned yesterday, here’s what we are going to do differently today.”
Squirrel: The key part is what are you going to change? That’s the learning.
Jeffrey: That’s the dynamic element, the driving rhythm that makes it so exciting. This is a team level ritual, but it works individually as well. If I go and say, “Here’s what I’m planning to try today, here’s the thing I’m going to experiment with. Let’s go see how the day goes at the end. How did it work versus what I predicted?”
Squirrel: “Hey, Jeffrey, we could try doing five minute podcasts and we’ll see what we think about it.”
Jeffrey: That’s right! First of all, can we can we stick to 5 minutes? That’s not our normal length. We have this prediction and then we can go and say, “right, well how is that? How was that? How did that go?” This is a pattern I use with people I coach all the time saying, “Well, this is what you’re going to try, then look back and see what happened.” It can be something as basic as “were you able to spend the time you wanted to on your most important item? Did you have that focus on what you said was the most important thing? And if not, can you do better tomorrow?” And every day is like that. “Can I improve on the previous day?”
Squirrel: Do I have to aim for perfection? If I don’t accomplish all the things I write down, if we don’t do everything that’s in the stand up, do we just quit and give up and it didn’t work?
Jeffrey: No, not at all. The goal here is about learning, not perfection. It’s about the journey, not where you arrive. So this is something that you’re looking to always improve. Perfection is not the goal.
Squirrel: I’m so proud of my coaching clients when they go and try some difficult homework and they say, “I’m going to do that this afternoon.” And then they phone me the next day and say “I tried it and it was a terrible disaster,” because that means they actually tried it. The ones who are painful, the ones who don’t make as much progress are the ones who come back a week later and say, “I couldn’t get up the courage to try it.”
Jeffrey: That’s right. Learning through doing. Imperfection is the path to improvement.
Squirrel: Excellent. Go forth and be imperfect! Thanks, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Thanks, Squirrel.