Groundhog Day

Recently, a friend and I were sharing our love for the movie Groundhog Day. In this movie Phil, a disgruntled, cynical weather reporter (played by Bill Murray) visits a town to report on the emergence of the groundhog and whether this indicated 6 more weeks of winter. Of course, Phil has a terrible day and everything lives up to his cynicism. When he awakens the next morning… it is Groundhog Day all over again. Phil gets to live the same day over and over again… until the experience forces him to grow into a better version of himself.

This reminiscing got me to thinking… what lessons are suggested by Groundhog Day that help us in our roles on software development teams…?

Lesson 1: When we don’t deal with something, it comes back to haunt us

Working on a software team can often feel like Groundhog Day. The same problems face us again and again. In the pressure to deliver, or in the belief that we have no means of fixing something, we cope yet again… and the problem returns. Or, something becomes so commonplace that we stop noticing it, as if we are carrying around a heavy backpack that slows us down and makes us tired, but we no longer even see the connection.

What we cope with, or ignore, doesn’t go away. It comes back time and time again. It is by sensing and facing those recurring problems, and choosing to deal with them (or even better, the systemic forces creating them), that we put down the heavy backpack and stop having the same painful experience.

Lesson 2: Frequent reflection helps us grow

As we reflect each sprint in our retrospectives, our underlying goal is to get better. Whether that’s by solving problems, figuring out how to work together better, or investigating new opportunities, the deliberate time to stop and look at how can we get better? is the fuel for our growth.

Lesson 3: Our attitudes drive our outcomes

How we show up each day has an enormous impact not only on how our team works together and what we are able to create, but also on our own experience of that work. If I show up in cynicism or suspicion, I am contributing to downward spirals of relationship and to lower quality software. If I show up in a spirit of teamwork, I am contributing to an easy working environment where challenges and gaps are addressed and work flows more easily… and the resulting software outcomes are vastly better.

What about you? What recurring problems are you coping with or no longer seeing? What would it be like to deal with them? How can you and your team grow as a result of your reflection? And what attitudes do you want to show up with today?

Originally published April 19, 2018 on the Innovative Software Engineering blog. Republished with permission.