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All by myself: looking back on a quarter of agile writing

A few weeks ago I was teaching an OKR workshop for product owners. When I mentioned I am writing a book in sprints, I received furtive laughter. I'm not sure why. Maybe the PO's felt I was taking agile too far. Or perhaps, more likely, they thought agile or scrum can't be done just by yourself. The rule is: you need a team. And a PO. Who is not the team.

Rules. If there's one concern I have about agile and scrum, is that is so overly protocolled, it's killing off all the freedom and creativity. Of course, it's harder working on your own than with a team. But I'm a writer. I'm used to striking out on my own. And even if it's just me, myself and I, my practice of agile writing has been paying off.

Eye of the tiger: goal setting

In april I started applying a serious agile practice to my writing. I started with setting a goal (OKR) for myself, so as to direct my work towards that what needed to be done the most. My goal was to really anchor my main character more firmly as the spill around which the whole story revolves. Or to put it in OKR-lingo:

Objective - it's all about her: main character is the centre

Key results:

  • Plot restructure is done yes / no

  • Main character’s #thickenplot stories are done 80%

  • Key plot scenes optimized 5

  • Dates, locations, languages match 100%

I'm happy to report I achieved my goal. And I did it by working in agile sprints of 3 weeks. By myself. It helped me be and stay more productive (never mind the occasional procrastination).

This is how we do it

I divided all the work I had in 'stories' or work items. Every item I gave an estimated amount of points (small, medium or large). I grouped together stories to do in one sprint. After a couple of sprints I had a good impression of the amount of points I could do in a sprint (about 30). Also, Trello is my BFF!

As of april I have done 5 sprints. Of those 5 sprints, I finished 4 with the estimated amount of points - and in one case I even did more stories than originally planned. Only the final sprint I didn't deliver all the work I had planned for.

Dancing on my own

And there we come to the crux of the matter, the objection the scrum-hardliners may have against my solo-sprinting. If it goes wrong, you're on your own. Normally, when you can't finish all the work in a sprint, you go to the product owner. He or she may opt to stop the sprint, take work out of it or put it back on the backlog for the next sprint. The team can revisit items and the PO may even talk to stakeholders to re-evaluate.

In my case, I'm both team, product owner and stakeholder and so there was much understanding :) In the end I chose to go against Scrum Commandments and I extended my sprint. Never mind the rules. What counts is that you get done what you need to get done, in a way that works for you. Based on my quarter of agile writing, I'm happy with my way of working and I'm looking forward to start sprinting again.

You can get it if you really want

Are you interested in agile writing or cultivating an agile writing practice? If you have questions or want to know more about how I write agile, let me know!

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