Hi. It’s been a while.
19 months ago, I wrote my last post on this effort. I thought, incorrectly it seems, that I was “fine.” I thought I was handling the death of my father… fine. I thought I was handling receiving a double-bypass… fine. I thought I was handling a new boss, being run over by a bus (figuratively), being “the rock”, the fixer… fine.
In reality, though, I wasn’t handling any of it, and I was certainly not fine. It was only the support of family and friends that kept me from just dissolving into a puddle.
A Quick Recap
On April 10th (2017), at the Global Scrum Gathering, I attended a breakout session called Ride the Scrum Wave to Health and Wellness (or How I Used Scrum Principles to Lose 40 lbs.) by Alex Brown. Alex is a Wharton School Graduate, the former COO of Scrum, Inc., and is currently a Principal at Glaessel Ventures. He’s also a very good speaker.
Alex shared how he used Scrum principles and practices to control his weight loss. He established meaningful, manageable, and achievable goals. He developed and prioritized the behavior changes he needed to introduce into User Stories, like “As someone trying to lose weight, I want to eat my last meal of the day before 8:00pm, because my body stores unspent calories overnight as fat.” He also instituted a short iteration period of a week, with his weigh-in the sprint review.
I’ve been a Scrum practitioner/evangelist for seven years, and I’m amazed this never occurred to me. I know that Scrum is not just for software development. At Kennedy Space Center, I coached some folks on using Scrum for Hardware, now a rapidly growing practice. I’ve even discussed using Scrum to manage our household goals with my wife, but using it for my weight… never occurred to me. Agile Forth, Epic 1
And so I started. This effort has been evolutionary, changing as I learned more about myself and what I was doing. In the beginning, I just wanted to lose weight.
The body is a complex, dispositional system. To paraphrase Aaron Dignan in Brave New Work, complex systems are dispositional – we can only make informed guesses about what our bodies are likely to do, but we can’t be sure.
The diets I’ve tried, and I’ve tried many, treat the body like complicated system and take causal approaches, as if there’s a root cause for being fat. They say “eat this,” or “don’t eat that,” or “do this new exercise.”
Issues with complex systems aren’t identifiable through root cause analyses, and aren’t usually solvable by fixing “one thing”; they require myriad small touches.
Agile and Scrum are, at their hearts, scientific approaches to getting things done. Instead of setting a BIG GOAL and doing BIG THINGS over long periods of time, you break things into small chunks, make hypotheses about what you can get done in small amounts of time, work on them, and then look at your result. Afterwards, you can change your direction – as often as you need to.
As I mentioned in Epic 1 – it never occurred to me to apply this approach to weight loss, but it makes sense, and so I tried it.
A Traditional Approach
If I were looking at my weight loss from a traditional “Big Goal” point of view, I have to perform the following:
- I have to lose about 150 pounds
- Whatever approach I use, it has to be something I stick with, and so I better pick right
- I’m going to be working out for many hours per week, or else I’ll gain the weight back
- I have to give up a whole lot of things I like
And the best part is that I don’t know what will work, why it may work, or how long it will take. Moreover, there aren’t small victories – if I don’t hit 150 pounds of loss, I’ve failed!
An Iterative and Incremental Approach
That’s not what works for me. In an agile approach, I break my effort into small increments of work. In agile, one word for these is Epics, and to make the scope of what I’m doing less scary, my Epics are only 10 pounds in size; lose 10 pounds… SUCCESS!
How long will it take to lose 10 pounds? It might be 3 weeks, it may be 6 if I hit a plateau. That makes it tough to determine if what I’m doing works. Instead of waiting until 10 pounds is gone, I’m going to work my time into small iterations, called Sprints, that are each one week long.
At the end of each week, I’ll take an honest look at my progress and performance. I then have a “retrospective”, examining what went right and what went wrong, and document that. I make adjustments, update the stories for the next week, and start over. I’ll share all of this with you.
Each week I’ll commit to what I’m going to do in that week using Stories. Each Story is written along the lines of this example: As someone using agility to enable a healthy lifestyle transformation, I don’t drink diet sodas, to avoid any side-effects of such, and to not try to fool my body that it’s getting extra calories.
The beauty of this is that I’m only ever committing to a week. If something works, I might do more of it. If something doesn’t, either change it or pitch it. If I have something special coming up (like a party or a trip), I can change my stories to take that into account, instead of getting derailed.
As you can read elsewhere in this blog, the Summer of ’17 was a major disaster for me, with the death of my Father and my double-bypass. It took me months to physically recover from the latter, but my emotional recovery from the former took longer.
I then tried to reboot, and wasn’t ready, and so became ashamed of not doing what I said I was going to do. Between the pain and shame and, well, everything else, I needed this to be perfect.
Perfect is the Enemy
I wanted to start this over. But when? How? I kept throwing obstacles in my own way… I need… walking shoes. I need… to fix the blog. I need… to find time for this… etc. This is my form of procrastination.
I wanted it to be perfect. There are plenty of versions of quotes on “perfect being the enemy of good”, but I like this one…
Gretchen Rubin, Huffington Post
(I)nstead of pushing yourself to an impossible “perfect,” and therefore getting nowhere, accept “good.” Many things worth doing are worth doing badly.
I was pushing myself to an impossible “perfect,” and getting nowhere. Well, if I end up doing this badly, at least I’m doing it.
The biggest question in my head, reflecting on the shame of trying to restart this and failing, was “Do I show what I’ve done before?” It would have been easier, but it would have been cheating, so yes. In the spirit of full transparency, I’m NOT restarting this effort from scratch. I’ve left my previous posts out there, because I didn’t restart life, I’m just continuing.
Time to get this train rolling. All aboard!
Epic Six is set to begin, as an imperfect reboot!
- Date: 4/7/2019
- Weight: 359.4 lbs. (yep, put it all back on…)
- Epic Definition of Done: 349.4 lbs.
As someone using agility to enable a healthy lifestyle transformation:
- I stop consuming calories at 8 PM, because my body stores unspent calories overnight as fat.
- I want to burn an extra 800 calories each day, as measured by the Watch’s “Move” measure, to ensure that I am getting exercise and maintaining a minimum level of activity.
- I want to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, because when I don’t my body tries to substitute calories for rest.
- I don’t drink diet sodas, to avoid any side-effects of such, and to not try to fool my body that it’s getting extra calories.
- I do not drink alcohol at home, because the calories add no nutritional value to my body. For social occasions out, I give myself license.
- I don’t have second helpings at meals, because this adds significant calories without exploring new tastes. Even bottomless french fries (sigh).
Let the Merriment Begin!