Philmont - The views: You can’t get an incredible view from the couch

Jan 26, 2015 by Matt Dixon

If you want to achieve greater success than in the past, you will have to take a different approach than in the past. It sure sounds simple.

We have heard this over and over again. Typically, we hear that we need to “Get out of our comfort zone.” But what does that mean? Glad you asked.

Baldy Mountain

Hiking Baldy Mountain could be described as challenging, to say the least. It is 12,441 feet (3,792 m) in elevation. Coming from Colorado helped out, but it was still strenuous. Our specific itinerary required us to take mostly empty packs up the climb in order to pick up food on the way back to camp.

We woke up about 5 or 5:30 AM, and made sure we were on the trail by 6. There was some lush forest at the beginning of the hike, with some rolling streams. Gorgeous terrain. As we reached the higher elevations, the trees started to thin out, and the gradient increased. Once we reached tree line, we could feel the hike take its toll. But as we rested, we could see some amazing views.

Our approach towards the top as a crew was to hike 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds. The closer to the top, the greater the rest / hike ratio. The key to this approach was steady progress. Other crews took longer breaks, but made slower overall progress. Consistency is the key.

At the top, it was amazing; A 360 degree view of New Mexico and Colorado. Spectacular. Words cannot describe what we saw.

Software Development Comfort Zone

Software teams like the consistency of a routine. It is somewhat soothing to know the same type of activity will happen every day. I get in the office (whether that is in your home, or not doesn’t matter), check my email, check the news, write some code, and go home. Every day teams get stuck in this same rut. That routine, however, does not have to be a rut; We can turn it into focus and effectiveness.

Leave Your Comfort Zone

What were to happen if we wanted to make some significant improvements in our software development approach and mentality? Would we see improvement? Yes, if we made the right changes, we would.

Just as hiking Baldy Mountain took discipline, hard work, and focusing on the right things, changing our software development approach will require the same level of effort.


Most organizations see the value in Scrum, however, they have yet to see it work effectively. Many organizations focus on efficiency, not effectiveness. I can drive 100 miles per hour, but if it is in the wrong direction, it is not very effective.

Here is how I have led my teams toward greater Scrum Effectiveness

  • Standup – Standup should be 15 minutes or less. Period. If your standup meetings are running long, have a different person run the scrum for a while. Make sure each team member is prepared to state three things, and three things only.
    1. What did they do yesterday
    2. What are they planning to work on today
    3. Anything blocking them
  • Sprint Planning – Planning is essential to effectiveness. Your sprint planning needs to focus on the what, not the how. Bring your business owner and developers together for a couple hours each sprint, and you will be surprised how much your team wants to do well.
  • Backlog Grooming – Make sure your backlog makes sense. All too often, this step is skipped resulting in Sprint Planning meetings that either run long or provide little value.
  • Sprint Retrospective – Often referred to as a post-mortem, this meeting is essential in assessing what went well, and what can be improved upon.


Scrum is not the magic bullet, but it goes a long way in providing a framework that allows teams to focus on the right things, write better software, and show the business that they are an asset, not a liability.