Stop Drinking From the Fire Hose. Tips From an agile Coach

Christian Antoine, Agile coach and instructor in Minneapolis, MN, is often asked how to stop the ‘drinking from the fire hose’ feeling at work.

Do you feel as though you are trying to keep 20 plates spinning at work? How does it feel to juggle so many things?  Do you feel productive?  Do you feel you add value? Do you think your employer values you for the number of plates you can spin at once?

What if your employer was looking for you to add value by providing information about those 20 plates?  This could be determining which plates should be stopped and which plates to double–down.  This could enable you to focus and delight your customers.

The best way to stop the insanity is to ask leaders to order their top priorities.  Priority alone does not work.  Everyone will tell you their priority is #1, top priority.  When there are 20 number one priorities, it is impossible to address all 20 at the same time, at least not effectively.  Ask “What order should I work on these 20 items?” or “What is the most valuable thing to work on first?  Next? And Then?”  etc.

Good leaders provide value by deciding the order of our priorities. Good teams provide value by making their leader’s decision work.

This is where those delivering look to leadership. They want to know they are working on valued items and do not have to worry about switching plates mid effort.

Delivery teams are great problem solvers … but terrible at predicting problems.  Here is a good test.  Ask your teams:  “Has there been a problem where we have not solved it and we had to shut down the company?”  If the answer is no, could it be the problems the company has encountered have been solved by those working in it?

The next time you feel you are drinking from the fire hose, the best remedy is to get an ordered list of priorities from your leader(s).  This allows you to address them in order, focusing one at a time until completion, and showing progress at regular intervals.

You may even have more conversations with your leaders to provide data on what is working and what is not, in turn helping your leaders to make better decisions on the order of their priorities going forward.  This reoccurring conversation between you and your leaders will build trust and help going forward.

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