Those closest to me know how much of a baseball fan I am. I love my Minnesota Twins. In any normal year, you would find me at Target Field in my season-ticket seats at least 10 times during the summer. Section K, Row 4, Seat 5. I have many amazing memories of games and great times with family, friends and colleagues. The global pandemic has taken away those experiences this season, but my team is about to take the field in an abbreviated season. I can’t wait. I will have little bit of normalcy, even on TV. Living room couch, Row 1, Seat 2.
I have been following the buildup to the season, with all of the effort to protect the players from becoming infected with COVID-19. The protocols are quite comprehensive. One of the important protocols is a temperature check when the player enters the ballpark, for practice or a game. It’s not the end-all-be-all indicator of whether or not a player has the virus, but it’s one of many steps and data points that make up the protocol.
As I was reading about this, I got to thinking about our Agile Best Self journey, and the part of the journey that deals with measures. Agile Best Self Principle 7 actually uses the word measure in it.
Agile Best Self Principle #7: Investing the time in yourself is the primary measure of progress.
Maybe a little bit of historical perspective will help us here. Let’s consider for a moment the 7th Agile Principle, that was it’s origin.
Working software is the primary measure of progress.*http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html
I had an old boss that really believed in this principle. He adopted the mantra “Shipito ergo sum” which is some kind-of invented Latin meaning: “I ship, therefore I am“. He defined himself as a software engineer by what he shipped to his customers, and he expected the same from his team. Nothing wrong with that. The expectations were clear for engineers that worked for him.
When Michaele and I wrote the corresponding Agile Best Self Principle #7, these thoughts were front of mind. How should we measure the progress of our Agile Best Self progress? We are all on a different journey, so measurements are highly individual.
I didn’t have the benefit of Agile Best Self Principle 8 yet, as I engaged in the conversation; however, the concept of being more over doing more was definitely front and center, and it popped out for me pretty easily once we got to that one — and it’s my favorite Agile Best Self Principle of all of them!
Agile Best Self Principle #8: Prioritize “being more” over “doing more” for sustainability.
Measuring output is pretty easy. We can measure the amount of code that is written, the size of the database, the number of users who use your application and so on. But our work goes beyond output, your Agile Best Self journey is about outcomes — who do you want to be? This is a little harder to measure, isn’t it? Knowing that all the principles hold a delicate synergy with each other, but that we frequently can only focus on one or two at a time, Principle 7 became about “investing time in yourself” as the primary measure of progress. We all have to do the work. We need to put in the time in the batting cage. Alone.
Here is the lineup: Outcome = being your best self. North Star = who you are. Measures = things that show progress toward your vision. Put it all together, and you have a way to track the time you’ve spent being your best self. One example might be a mindfulness practice. Because we know that mindfulness develops our brain (thank you, neuroplasticity, you are awesome!), one might choose to track mindfulness minutes so you can see progress. This encourages you to continue building that healthy habit. A healthy habit that helps us overcome the inner critic so we can go beyond burnout to awesome. Michaele games her meditation app. She is currently at 1299 total sessions with 18474 total meditation minutes. One 26 minute session can get her to 1300 total session ans 18500 total meditation minutes. She goes after whatever number is easiest: because she knows this time in the batting cage adds up.
What is the outcome, you ask? Read this post Is this Best Self Stuff Working. Another outcome: we have noticed that we are showing up more balanced and more centered than many in this current VUCA world. In conversations with friends, peers, and family, we are more emotionally resilient than most. We also frequently do reality and progress checks by asking each other: “Do you think you would have reacted in such an ego-resilient way two years ago, pre-Agile Best Self?” The answer is always: “No”.
Over a year ago, I wrote this a post on a my personal happiness metric. Seems like a no brainer, but when I am happy, I can be a light much more often. I can live into my North Star. Gathering happiness data each day shows me when I was a light, and how to shine more brightly and more frequently. Measuring my daily happiness metric is yet another tool to that helps me adapt and overcome. Adapting and overcoming allows me to be my best self more often. Being a light means I am helping others, which moves me in the direction of my vision or just cause — to make an impact in the world in the second half of my life.
Each of us will have our own set of measures we monitor to help us with our best self journey. But keep is simple, keep is personal. Be careful to not measure too many things. Honestly, I have been guilty of this in the past. I got wrapped up so much it the collection of the data that I lost sight of why I was doing it and what I was trying to accomplish. Now, I’m down to few vital data points that help me check in. I can collect these data points with a low level of friction: happiness, activity, sleep quality and a couple of vital signs. Easy to capture, easy to analyze.
There is one more aspect of Principle 7 — the amount of time invested. The amount of time spent doing things I love drives happiness. The amount of time I spend moving improves my health, including my brain. Getting enough sleep helps everything. The measures are reflective of the investment of time (the right amount of time) in activities that help me be my best self.
As you think about measuring your best self journey, I recommend focusing on the outcome you want to create — who you want to be. Create a short list of measures that will help you keep an eye on how you are doing. This will help you honor the intent behind Principle 8 — being more over doing more, and help you spend more time being your best self.
When we are our best selves, our ability to impact others is without bound. That’s where I want to be in this next phase of my life. I will see all of you there!
Copyright © 2021 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson
*Note: The "working software is the primary measure of progress" principle has unofficially been amended to replace the word "software" with "product" as Agile has made its way beyond the software engineering practice.