…I might have even learned something.
Jenny Tarwater and I have formed an improbable relationship. Not because she’s a boring person (she’s full of just as much energy as I am), not because she’s a downer (she’s SUPER positive) and not because she’s stuck in her ways (I would argue that she is VERY innovative). No, we’re a lot alike aside from our love (or in my case avoidance) of process.
I’ve always known of Jenny, but never really knew her. A few weeks ago I decided to go formally re-introduce myself because I had walked by these crazy “Kanban” boards and heard so much about “agile development.” After a quick tour and crash course on what she’s started inside of our product development group, I was intrigued. The thought of process serving a real purpose in allocating the proper skills for a particular job, encouraging communication, bringing people closer together to make quick decisions and more than anything speeding up delivery was a foreign concept for someone so used to the process that I thought I knew….
Jenny encouraged me to jump into an upcoming training course taught by the equally amazing Hollie Carrender-Shephard. So I did…and I brought a couple co-workers with me. After making a few immature jokes about flicking spit wads and finding my seat in the back of the class, Hollie got me under control and we spent the day learning about visioning, themes, user stories, Kanban, definition of done, iteration and more. If you would have told me a month ago that I would be sitting through a day of training on process…….and enjoying it…..I would have fallen on the floor laughing. To be clear, I’m still not the right person to implement everything I learned today, but I sure as hell respect it.
After a long day of listening and asking questions, Jenny and I went to grab a quick beer to talk about the application of agile to my tiny marketing team. There are many companies adopting “Agile Marketing” practices and my team has started to champion the merits of this idea…I’m always looking to pick an expert’s brain.
I get schooled on multi-tasking…at a bar
I tell you all of this only to provide context… I’m now at a bar with a process expert (remember…an innovative process expert) and she says she wants to show me a quick experiment on multi-tasking. I’ve enjoyed two beers, so I oblige…what could she teach me about multi-tasking? I take on everything I can and juggle it all without any issues.
She grabs two receipts and flips them over, handing me a pen. As she grabs her iPhone she tells me to start writing numbers in sequential order…as many as I can in 30 seconds. She yells “TIME” and I stop writing, I made it to the number “22.” She resets the timer and tells me to start writing my ABC’s. This time I’m really ready and I fly through the alphabet. By the time she yells “TIME” again I had blown through the letter “Z” and started writing “A, B” already.
Now for the lesson…she grabs the other receipt and this time has me write both characters together, “1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, etc…” I make it to 18R. This set was noticeably harder as I had to start engaging my brain on what pair came next (though my brain figured out a trick once I got to the number 8 that sped me up a bit…ask me in the comments and I’ll tell you about it).
When my brain was given the ability to focus on an individual task (writing number or letters individually) I was able to get through 50 characters. When my brain had to think about the sequential order of both numbers and letters, I only got through 36 characters. The theory here is that multi-tasking engages your brain in context switching and actually requires more attention and time OR increases the risk of errors.
As a person who is frequently (VERY FREQUENTLY) distracted by shiny objects, this is something I need to be aware of. While Jenny admitted I scored better than most, the risk of switching context explains a lot about my productivity. Figuring out how to effectively tackle something with my full attention will produce the best result.
As for me and my new found friend in process…I’m happy to have learned so much about it but thrilled to be surrounded by people like Jenny who can keep me on track.