Running a Marathon in Your Bare Feet

I just read this excellent blog post and it reminded me of something I tried to describe to some of my teammates.

Quintessence: The fifth element for the Agile Manifesto

My story goes something like this: A marathon runner realizes that they have a couple of small stones in their shoe right before the race begins, so they takes off their shoes to remove the stones. While doing this, the race starts.

The runner’s coach has always trained them to run the race “10 feet at a time”; just focus on getting through the next 10 feet and the race will take care of itself.

Since they are very literal, they considers how to run the next 10 feet the quickest: 1) Spend 1 minute putting on their shoes 2) Just start running.

The runner decides to just start running and they are happy with how much progress they make in the first 5 seconds of the race.

After a couple of miles, the runner is starting to slow down. Their feet are cracked and torn from running on the rough pavement. They are BEHIND! They consider stopping and putting their shoes on, but DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME. They are behind and just need to keep running for the next 10 feet.

And so it goes…

This is exactly what focusing on the short term at the expense of the real time-frame of the project feels like to me. We make decisions that help no one and that we know are dumb just to get something done this week, even when it puts us further away from our real goal.

This is also relevant: The Tyranny of the Urgent (over the Important)

Written on August 15, 2008