Glaudia and I recently returned from a trekking holiday. We were away for eight days in total, camping along the way. Though I try and stay active, I’m not getting any younger and I hadn’t done as much exercise in preperation as I would have liked. We were able to use tents provided by the various campsites along the way, but still had our own kit to carry.
I was carrying our sleeping bags, food, some cooking equipment as well as my own personal belongings. I wasn’t worried about the walk, I was worried about carrying the weight. I had fastened the sleeping bags to the sides of my main pack. It seemed like a good idea, but after the first hour, I found that I kept losing balance and my back and shoulders already ached. I stubbornly pushed on when I should have stopped earlier.
I found a way to squeeze one of the sleeping bags into my main backpack, and tie the other to the top of it. This felt much better and got me through to the afternoon. However, the pain in my sholders grew more and more intense. I could barely lift my drink to my lips at the afternoon break. The sleeping bag on top of my backpack had kept slipping to one side and its weight was putting more pressure on my shoulders, just where I didn’t want it. We completed the day’s walk, but it had taken more than two hours longer then the estimate and I had arrived tired, in pain and not having fun.
I adjusted the bag configuration again, this time strapping the second sleeping bag to the back of the pack and tightening up the straps. Everything felt much more secure, the weight more even and I wasted less energy as the pack was more compact. With these small adjustments the walk felt completely different, my shoulders and mood got a whole lot better. Throughout the rest of the trek, I continued making small adjustments, tightening or loosening a strap here or there, sometimes making things slightly worse and having to change it back. By the final day, I felt great and we finished the day’s walk earlier then the scheduled time, allowing for some extra downtime at the bar.
As we drank our well earned cocktails, I reflected on how well this experience demonstrated the importance of inspecting and adapting. Had I continued with my initial packing configuration I was sure to have completed the trek much slower – if at all. I would have been in real pain, perhaps causing myself permenant damage and I certainly would not have enjoyed it.
Investing in inspecting and adapting how our processes are working on any project can provide a really good return. Examples in software development could be introducting engineering practices such as pair programming and test driven development, or addressing pain points such as long build times, or improving communication and feedback channels between the team and stakeholders.
Its easy to put this stuff off and continue on with current processes, but like me on our trekking holiday, this could risk finishing late or not at all, cause undue pain and take all the fun out of things.