Scrum Notes 2013-20

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Small Things ▶️

A personal reflection...

Yesterday, 24th May 2019, I hosted another Scrum Exchange in London, for around thirty people. I didn't do much. Booked a space, collected registrations, supplied food and coffee, said hello, and got out of the way. This is Scrum: people figured out what they needed, the value they sought from one another, and self-organised to realise it. It was a small, intimate event, full of warmth, generosity, humour and brimming over with ideas, offers and awakenings.

A few days earlier I facilitated a storytelling workshop with six civil servants. The stories told had an emotional depth not readily apparent in larger groups. It was likely a combination of the small group size and the sense of camaraderie inherent when people work towards a common purpose.

Both experiences reminded me of the power of small. Being involved for so many years in the (so-called) Agile movement—a big movement, brimming with big ideas, attracting big companies, hosting huge, grand conferences of hundreds, maybe now even thousands of people—I can easily forget what it means to be intimate with another human being, and how the real learning occurs not in presentations, trainings, keynotes, sales pitches and experience reports, but in quiet conversation, in listening, in shared laughter, even in physical touch.

A few months ago I made a choice to decline invitations to speak at conferences. Over the past ten years I've given many keynote and conference talks. I always find them uncomfortable—not in that they push my comfort zone, which would be healthy discomfort, leading to improvement, but in the sense that I feel out of integrity. The keynote (indeed any speaker/audience talk) sets up a power imbalance, based quite naturally on our concepts of leadership, expertise, on our positioning specific people as kings, chiefs, managers, presidents, chosen ones, gurus, etc. etc. We've been raised in a hierarchical, patriarchal society, and "more important/less important" is our model of reality. And it's wrong; it's warped, distorted, tragic. I know this because I feel it deeply, I know this because I see the damage it causes, the blindness, the docility, the oppression.

And yet, there I stand, time after time, in front of a large group of people, sometimes on a stage, usually with a microphone being the person who supposedly knows something others don't know, or have insights others don't have. And it's all nonsense. I can no longer endorse such a system. I'm amazed I ever did—well, perhaps not amazed. I have a fragile ego like most of us, I seek validation, status, a sense of importance even. But if I take a moment to step back I can see many other ways those needs can be met, ways that are more aligned with my core being.

I am validated in my friendships and close relationships. I am important to my children. It is so much more meaningful and fulfilling to spend time in our garden, in conversation with my six-year-old than to be in another bland, corporate setting, talking at a group of strangers who stare blankly back at me, mobile phones in hand, waiting for some tweetable phrase to fall from my lips, or checking out in boredom but unable to leave the room due to being trapped in death-rows of seats and the social embarrassment of attracting undue attention. Honestly, business conferences are bleak, nightmare scenarios of absolute disempowerment.

And social media. That's also too big, and overwhelming. From intimate beginnings I eventually became lost in a sea of polarisations, angry disagreements, consumerism and trivia. I recently deleted my twitter account, unfriended everyone on facebook, removed myself from work-related forums and mostly ignore my linkedin feed. I no longer wish to participate. It started to feel as if my soul was being sucked out of me by a demonic force. The internet can be a dark place, and I need to turn towards the light.

I'd like a return to small things, personal things, dinner parties, coffee dates, workshops of four to six people, walks along the river, in the park. And the occasional gathering of like-minded truth seekers, in a forum that allows for listening, learning and loving. More than anything, I seek something that has eluded me most of my life: the quieting of the turmoil.

Sheffield, 25/05/2019   comment