What I do

A major Agile principle is to make your work visible. Once you can actually see and visualize your work you have the ability to understand it and play with the moving parts.

In an ALC we do this through the use of Kanban, Community Mastery Boards, Ideas/Offerings boards, blogs, and in the sense of making social rules/structures visible, we use Gameshifting. You can learn more about these tools from our Tools and Practices Wiki.

At our first ALF Weekend gathering last October, we did an exercise is that is common among Agile teams. We all took some time to answer the following three questions:

  1. What do I do?
  2. Where’s the juice? (what excites me about what I do?)
  3. What do I want to do that I am not doing?

Each person went over their responses with the group as we documented it all. We then gave the group the opportunity to acknowledge things we see the person doing that may not have been added, or to mark a specific value add that they contribute. We made the information visible with a MetaMap.

I love this exercise as it is an easy way to bring coherence to a group and to identify the importance of each person’s contributions. For us, it was a way of making some implicit roles explicit, and giving each person the chance to identify ways in which they want to expand their role.

In an attempt to do some meta-reflections of my own, I’ve decided to map out my work with the Agile Learning Centers project. My goal was to better understand my work by visualizing it — making sense of all that I do, how my energy is spread out, and identify gaps that I can work to fill or shift over the next 6 months.

The first step was categorizing all of my work on Trello. I determined that all the work I do is either for NYC Agile, ALC Mosaic, the ALF Network, the ALC Websites, or for General ALC Outreach. Of course, much of the work I do overlaps and includes multiple categories. Since I have many Trello boards, the easiest way to do this was to create a board that I call “Today” and move all cards into that board when I’m ready to interact with them. From this board I can apply lables to each card based on the categories it fits into.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 5.46.38 PM

I did this for about two months worth of work.

When I finished I had a column of completed cards that were all labeled and could be sorted. I filtered and exported PDF’s of all cards from each category — this was the easiest way I could get Trello to display the information in list form. Then, I started mapping the work.

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It took me a while to get all the cards translated into more general themes. Obviously, the map would be a mess if I made a node for each specific task I did in the last two months. Instead, I started making task nodes that were more general. Within each of them I could write a few paragraphs or bullet lists of all the tasks that I did under the theme. I haven’t done this yet.

I’m not convinced I mapped this in the most effective way and would definitely love some feedback as to how it could be arranged better. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 5.54.57 PM

After completing the exercise (at least to this point), it didn’t take long until some worth-while reflections began to emerge for me. The first thing I began to realize is that my work is spread pretty far. I do a lot of tasks. While I have a ton of support from a lot of people, I hold coherence for a lot, which often means lots of little tasks to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. It also tends to mean that I can go deep with fewer projects.

One thing that is missing from the visual is a way of ranking on a spectrum how much time/energy each task theme takes up. It would also be nice to rank the themes by my personal enjoyment/energy for doing them.

I have no complaints, as I’ve actively created these roles that I’ve mapped out — all adding up to my larger role in Agile Learning Centers. I would like to be working towards a deeper engagement in the areas that I think are my true sweet spots, and less spreading of myself around to administrative tasks that can get rather mundane. That said, I think it is important that I continue doing some mundane tasks (the ones I don’t mind as much), as it works better when these are spread among many people.

Here’s what I have identified as the things I really like doing and want more of:

  • Being the point-of-contact for the ALC Network or the ALC(s) I’m working with
  • Communicating about ALCs at Parent Interest Nights, with visitors, current parents, etc.
  • Sharing the story and big picture vision of ALCs through emails, G-hangouts, public talks and meetups
  • Developing and maintaining the organizational flows of the school(s) — Assembly, working groups (though doing this for two schools simultaneously is not sustainable)
  • Supporting, coaching and mentoring facilitators — I love doing this and feel effective in my ability to support and invite new levels of leadership from the facilitators who are on the ground with the kids each day
  • Developing and managing the logistics and communications of the Admissions process — I’ve learned how important it is to be organized in the is process and clear in the communications around it (enrollment contracts, tuition policies, cultural norms of the school, etc.) and I feel good about my ability to add a lot of value here
  • Culture hacking! I thoroughly enjoy inventing and evolving tools and practices. The trick here for me is being able to spend enough time engaged with the kids to do this effectively. I definitely want more intentional time for this.
  • Plan and facilitate ALF Summer and other Agile Learning Facilitator intensive training experiences
  • Develop and implement (with lots of help) the big picture vision for ALC Network website — a social network of purpose.

 

Consider these 6-12 month ∆ + intentions for myself!

7 comments

  1. Profile photo of NancyT
    NancyT says:

    Oh wow, @Tomis!!! How cool! I can see value in having me try to engage with Trello in this way…and maybe one day mapping what I do – or asking @Charlotte to help me!

    @Charlotte really loves metamaps and it seems to be a type of visual feedback that really makes sense to her. Perhaps she could look at your metamap and then that would serve to one 1) Allow her space to give you feedback if she sees a way to map differently, and 2) Give her the opportunity to see what the whole Agile Network looks like on a map.

    I’m declaring now that over Thanksgiving break I’ll reorganize my Trello!!!! I have too many boards and what you are doing by moving tasks that are categorized to a Today board sounds like the solution I need!

    Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for all you do. The things I see you powerfully doing for us at Mosaic are listed in your bullet points – that is good to hear that what you are good at, you also enjoy!

    You have greatly supported our community and I’m thankful for how you help with mentoring current ALFs, facilitating PINs, creating structures for the school that work, helping me write emails to new parents, and the overall encouragement. I also love that in the midst of all of that, you make time to play with the kids – who love you too!

  2. Profile photo of Charlotte
    Charlotte says:

    Pretty dope, looks like a dandelion sort of. This is a good exercise in mapping roles and naming responsibilities. Juicy at for determining layers of engagement, and wonder how it might combine with blueprint of me.

  3. Arthur says:

    Tomis,

    It’s great to see your explorations in applying ALC principles to your own work. It’s so critical that the students see us authentically engaging in the same kinds of processes that they are.

    I’ve been exploring some of this for my work recently too. I’m trying a 2×2-dimensional hack on the backlog in my main kanban to help me organize/prioritize my time and tasks (I know… you’re using Trello, I’m still using mini-stickies on one of our folding mag-white boards).

    I’m trying to keep myself focused on the activities that make the biggest difference, and let all the other ones drop away if needed. So I’m sticking the stickies into two different 2-dimensional spaces. The first focuses on the impact and reach of what I’m doing. Is it private? or public? Is it just for me? or to benefit many? How big is the impact of doing it? No big deal? Or game changing? For example, writing an email response to someone may get prioritized below writing a blog post, because the blog post (when put in a a useful place) has a larger reach and impact. Information in email largely dies there and only reaches the person I sent it to.

    The second space is about the maintenance stuff that I have to do in life, but this one is organized around how much it increases future efficiency and how urgent something is. For example, I could put “Pay X bill” in there near Urgent, if they’re due and get it done again and again. Or I could put “Set up automated bill payments near Future Efficiency and make it so I don’t have to waste much time in the future paying bills. This layout helps me be conscious that I do have to do hygiene/infrastructure work in my life, but that growing that infrastructure to let me waste less time on it in the future, let’s my shift my work to the other quadrant where I get to make a difference in the world.

    I don’t know if it’s really effective for me yet, but I’m giving it a try for a bit.

    Thanks for sharing your mappings of your work domains!

    -art

    P.S. It looks like I can’t insert the image in a comment, but you can find it here.

  4. Profile photo of Tomis
    Tomis says:

    Thanks for reading and sharing this. I have noticed that since using Trello more actively, I’ve been doing less Kanban hacking — something I was all about last year. Trello offers me thing that a physical board cant (organizing lots of different boards in one place less weight in my backpack 😉 That said, hacking the board and especially the backlog is really important.

    I like the distinction between urgency and future efficiency as a way of always looking to build an infrastructure that frees up more impact-oriented time. Are you actively trying to change the way the stickies or stories are written, like your example of paying a bill vs setting up automated bill pay?

    Are you saying Reach is for emails or work that has a lower impact? I’m not quite sure I understand the relationship between those to, as I do the lower grid.

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