Full Screen February

You know what is really irritating? When you make the effort to get up out of your car to walk into Starbucks, and then the people in the drive-thru get served before you do. I mean, you put all that effort into actually stepping foot into the store, to really *be present* with your barista, and then they serve some lazy jerk who couldn’t even get off his butt to get out of the car before they serve you?

How rude.

I should mention I’m in a meeting right now. I assume there are things going on in this meeting that I should be paying attention to, but I’m totally distracted. I just got a flood of Jira emails, a got a developer pinging me on Hipchat to tell me to go tell this other vendor to fix their stuff, I’m only halfway done with the things I wanted to accomplish today, plus, well. I’m writing a blog post.

Turns out that I’M the lazy jerk in the drive-thru.

Hold on, there’s some kind of awkward silence in this meeting, I need to see if they just asked me a question. BRB.

Okay, I think I bluffed an answer pretty well there. Where were we?

Oh yes. Me being a lazy jerk.

It’s too easy to not be present on these meetings. To be on a video chat and not even be looking at the other people on the meeting, to be staring at my second monitor, to be typing emails or checking messages, or using the time to catch up on something else.

And that’s not fair to the other people in these meetings. If the meeting is worth my time, then it is worth my complete attention. If the meeting isn’t worth my complete attention, then I need to not be in that meeting. Simple as that.

I’ve decided to try to mend my distracting lazy ways, or at least forge a better habit of paying attention, and treating these meeting attendees as the valuable contributors that they are. So I’m declaring Full Screen February for myself.

Full Screen February means my meeting is full screen. It’s my full attention. No other windows open, no checking email on the side, just the one thing to focus on on the screen. One full screen meeting, focused attention.

Maybe I’ll learn I need to cancel some meetings.
Maybe I’ll learn to run a more efficient meeting!
Maybe I’ll get better connection and better problem solving out of these meetings.
Maybe I’ll learn to set more accurate priorities for my attention based on real value of the things that compete for my attention.

Either way, it’ll be a challenge. Full Screen February. Are you in?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Sometimes, I feel caught in that conundrum. Especially when it comes to things like planning meetings, or retrospectives. If we stop to plan better, we lose development time, but we should make up that time by doing the work properly the first time. If we stop to figure out what we did well and what we did not so well, then we lose development time, but we should be making ourselves more efficient by reflecting and improving.

Specifically in an agency environment, where the pressure to deliver MORE ALWAYS MORE AND EVEN MORE NOW AND WHY CAN’T WE JUST SQUEEZE THIS IN TODAY, it can be difficult to prioritize those things. We live or die by happy clients and billable hours.

Sure, we plan. But do we sit down and do nothing but plan and do deep thinking exercises over what really is needed? Not consistently.

It’s a matter of priorities, really. If we don’t feel the meetings are important enough, then they slide by.

So what’s in the way of prioritizing these events?

Constant adjustment of client expectations.
…which can lead to unhappy clients.
The loss of billable hours, potentially.
The lack of staff buy-in, that these things are valuable.
The lack of a process champion to convince the staff to just try it for a while.

It’s all about how much risk we’re willing to take on. Is it more risky to slow down delivery for these clients, understanding the theory that development becomes more effective over time, ultimately (one hopes) leading to happier clients? Or is it more risky to devote as little time as possible to planning and reviewing, only enough for a general understanding, while keeping billable hours and deliveries as frequent and comprehensive as possible?

Can you convince an unseasoned client to value quality over volume? How many meetings will a client tolerate on their invoice before they start to balk at what most clients think is just useless overhead? On a 4 month project, how much client education can you legitimately expect to accomplish?

I suppose there’s only one way to find out!