“Can You Do That At Will?”

After working in an office type environment for the last 14 years or so, I consider myself a veteran of the business world. True some of business only offered what could loosely be called an office. Symantec comes to mind, since my first two “offices” were… inventive: the first was a space walled off by bookcases and the second consisted of a space centered in a hallway, walled off by portable, free-standing half-cube walls. There were other places that had other interesting features, like an open office area that didn’t have PC’s for everyone, a rack of 14 PC’s next to my desk, or even a large room where 8 people shared the area.

And then one day you’re in a meeting where you say, “Uhhh, what just happened?”

It was a small team meeting – just 7 people – and we were getting together for an hour of planning for our next sprint[1]. We all had a few items to go through… in fact, one of my co-workers had a notebook with him, with a list. He was running down his items… first one was reasonable. Second was as well. The third one, he stops and says, “Oh, excuse me.” I looked down the table in time to see him calm reach below the table, grab the garbage pail, and puke into it. And then again. And then a third time. By the fourth time,

he was out of “substance” but that doesn’t matter – nothing but time stops dry heaving. After that he left for a moment, with the pail, and came back looking a bit better.

What do you do if you see this happen?

We knew he had a migraine, since he responded to the meeting with a “I feel sick, but I don’t want to miss the meeting – I might have to leave it if I feel really sick though” type of thing. I’ve known a lot of people that have had migraines – no two are the same. When I was growing up, I used to have cluster headaches, which is a migraine but without the nausea – telling point for this convo – so I can totally sympathize and empathize with that kinda pain. My reply would have been “screw the meeting!” and I would have hid in my bedroom for a day. But even so… there was a tentative silence in the room after the last heave… true to form, each of the disciplines responded as you’d expect:

PM [group facilitator]: Dude, we could have reschedule… I mean, WOW – talk about dedication to the team!

Dev [problem solver]: Ya alright? Ya need anything?

Dev Lead [problem solver and taking care of one of his own]: You sure yer OK? You should go home; we can pick this up on Monday.

Test [problem finder]: Man… I wouldn’t want to be on the cleaning team tonight…

Test Lead [problem finder and cynic]: Umm… did you really think the workload was that bad? (what else would you expect me to say?)

After the meeting, I asked my co-worker if I could blog about it; I thought it was too surreal not to share it. In fact, the first question Steve asked me was “you’ve GOT blog that – did you get it on video???” No… no, I didn’t. I didn’t even think about grabbing my phone. Instead I was wondering if anyone else in the room was going to have a bout of sympathy puking… I figured I would have. If you told me this story, I would have bet that I’d be the person puking next. But no one did. One of the other guys in the room even admitted that he hadn’t puked since the mid 90’s. Too much info? Maybe… but I call it the bonding of a new team in planning meetings…

And of course, it lead to my most serious question of them all: “Dude, can you do that at will? I mean, if someone brings in spec or work item, can you just go ‘Wait a sec’ and puke all over it? Really, can ya? That would rule! Seriously.”

What are you rolling your eyes at me for??? You know that would just rock.


[1] Yes, my team uses Agile methodologies for project management. Not that it’s that important to this post, but some background on it. We’ve found it works well for us, rather than the traditional 18-24-36 month ship cycle. We plan 3-6 week sprints with a detailed list of things we want to do and then ship at the end of that sprint. Sometimes it’s a large shipping item to external customers – other times it’s just an updated release of something small, but was always make sure we complete the majority of the tasks. Big project? You break it down into stages and the spread it out over multiple sprints. If we’re in a sprint and we realized that we won’t finish all of the planned work, we’ll know about it before the end of the sprint, so we scale back the work and punt the to the next sprint. How do we we won’t finish before the deadline? Daily 15-minute meetings that has team members state what they did yesterday and what they plan to do today. That’s Agile in a nutshell. For us, it works because we’re fulled embraced it – more accurately, we’re not afraid to chop tasks up and we’re not afraid to punt work to future sprints. If your team is afraid of that, you’ll have trouble… most people that “try” agile half ass it and either have stretch goals in sprint or won’t punt items that are too bit – do that and you’re destined to fail! You can’t half ass agile; it’s an all or nothing thing.

One thought on ““Can You Do That At Will?””

  1. I wish I could puke on command. I think you and I are pretty much the only people who think about it, though.

    I always mention to my friends, “See, you can’t say that if I puked right now that it wouldn’t be funny. I mean, the circumstances are just so ridiculous!”

    So I know where you’re coming from. It would rival gaining super-powers. The (hilarious) possibilities are endless.

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