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At Peace with Paper

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: At Peace with Paper

I am an admitted Blackberry addict and I love new gadgets. That said, there is just something organic, something spiritual about scribbling on a piece of paper. I just can’t seem to shake my attraction to paper planning. I love jotting down ideas and circling key concepts. Being able to draw a line between two related concepts is powerful. Using different colors to show transitions and to communicate emphasis richly expresses what words do not. There is a place in my soul that won’t be satisfied with a little electronic checkmark next to a finished task. I need to write.

But as much as I love my planner, it does have its limitations. If I want to share my ideas with anybody, I have to either photocopy them or rewrite them electronically later on. No one else is able to see my calendar so coordinating schedules becomes a pretty labor intensive task. I am never totally sure if my wife has me booked someplace and I just forgot to write it down. I have yet to figure out a way to make it receive email and it won’t automatically remind me of anything. Did I mention that I am totally screwed if I leave it on the roof of my car?

I’ve been fighting this internal battle for the better part of 20 years. I would go through periods of time where I did nothing but paper planning but inevitably the limitations we just discussed would pull me back to using something electronic. When I would decide to go paperless that part of my soul in search of free form expression would pull me back to handwritten notes. After all this time, I’ve come to the realization that neither approach is going to give me everything I need in a planning tool, so for now, I am going to use both.

I think there is a lesson here that we can apply in our agile projects. It doesn’t have to be one or the other when it comes to planning. If we are all in the same room collaborating, exploring new ideas, and everyone is able to see and touch the same information; paper and whiteboards are the way to go. When the job requires us to manage large amounts of data, to coordinate over distance, or an ability to look at data from many different angles; software can do that much more effectively than paper.

It is really just a matter of blending the two approaches in a way that allows us to be most effective as a team and deliver the most value to our customers.

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