The Path to Enlightenment


The path to enlightenment lies not in the footsteps of another. – CD

Brian Sterling Buddha Shot FlickrIn developing talent, it is important to help them learn to find their own path that not only resonates with them, but that is also appropriate for the unique experiences they will come upon in their path. When I interview someone who has “Agile” on their resume, I ask them: “If you had to be religious about just one thing about the agile development methodology, what would it be?” It’s a bit of a trick question as the answer I seek is: “To be religious about nothing at all.” I say this because every project and every team is unique and what works well in one situation may not in another.

Kanban may be well suited for green-field projects dealing with technologies and/or languages the team hasn’t used before. Similarly, the use of Story Point Poker may apply well to a well understood technology, language and project.

Likewise, when it comes to be a teacher, manager, coach or colleague, there is most likely not one specific approach that will work in all similar situations. Even the exact same situation involving the exact same people may have different outcomes on any given day as circumstances may have altered. Prior to coming to work, school or the field, one individual may have lost a loved one, or another may have had a fight with their partner…

So too, it is unlikely that any advice dispensed will always be applicable and resulting in predictable outcomes. As a horse whisperer, it is good to understand how to interact with a horse and how to recognize certain signs, but it tends to be most effective and safe to adjust the approach to what works in a specific moment and interaction. So too with humans or a business, there is no one answer or approach that will always work. I have been at early, mid and late stage companies operating in existing and emerging markets, I have seen there are many different paths to success that apply even within the same company and business as it matures.

Shunryu-Suzukii-Zen-Mind-Beginners-Mind-Informal-Talks-on-Zen-Meditation-and-Practice-175x300.pngTo go back to the question about Agile, my next favorite answer is the Retrospective – this is where a team looks back at the last sprint to decide what worked, what didn’t what to keep, abandon or adjust from the last sprint. So too, the Post Mortem after an outage or the debrief after a game present wonderful opportunities to learn from that experience what might work better that previous approaches. As a coach, teacher or mentor, I’m always careful with dispensing advice for the are always many vectors of force at play and many may not be readily visible to me. Hence, I’m also careful to closely follow what I learn from others and how I arrived at the view that the path to enlightenment lies not in the footsteps of another. We may observe and learn from others, but I believe we should each find our own path and see what lies in front of us with a beginner’s mind.

And, change marches on at an accelerating rate…

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