An Agile Pathway To Recovery

Posted By - Geoff Watts


In February this year I went under the knife to try and address a long-standing problem with one of my knees. For 20 years now I have had a problem with them dislocating (or subluxating – a term I recently learned), even when doing something as mundane as playing darts!

As painful as it was, it was something I tolerated because I didn’t think there was much I could do about it. After a number of exploratory operations 10 years ago there was nothing that was recommended other than a procedure that offered a less than 50% chance of success.

Anyway things have moved on and I was offered a number of procedures of varying degrees of brutality and intervention. I decided to take an agile approach and start with an MVP of reconstruction. I was told that “should stabilise my kneecap”. I took it largely because my exercise options were diminishing every year and being able to exercise is important to me.

Why am I telling you this you might ask? Well today, while lying on the floor after pushing myself in my latest workout, I drew some incredible parallels between my recovery process and the Agile Pathways that I created for Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Agile Teams.

Now bear with me…

The Agile Pathway Surgery

Step one of my recovery involved was the surgery. An expert intervention whereby I was given some (uncomfortable) realignment. I couldn’t do this myself and, to be honest, I wanted the best so sought out the most reputable person in the country. It’s expensive and risky and one phrase I try to live by is:

“If you think an expert is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur!”

My knee immediately after waking from surgery

For me this is analogous to the Explorer Workshop of the Scrum Mastery Pathway. Here students are upskilled in both theory and reflective internalisation by an expert in that field. Sure it can be a little uncomfortable. Quite often people tell me “I didn’t realise how far away I was from doing this role properly until I came here.” But it’s a good kind of discomfort. One where we know we will be better because of it.

Now as necessary as that surgery is, it’s not sufficient.

If I don’t go through the rehabilitation and recovery then it will be for nothing. It’s the equivalent of leaving the classroom and not putting the theory into practice. So here comes step 2 on my Agile Pathway to recovery…

The Long Road to Recovery

Upon leaving the hospital I was given instructions about what I should (and should not) do and when. I was given exercises to do every day straight away (even though they were painful). My wife quickly pointed out to the surgeon that there was no estimate for when I could be expected to take our small child down the water slides on our holiday (booked for a few weeks’ time)!

A program and timetable of expected recovery
My timetable of what to expect and when

I was required to go and see a physiotherapist for my progress to be inspected and for my exercises to be adapted throughout my recovery. I needed to get into a discipline and routine for my recovery to really take hold. Of course ultimately it was my own responsibility, but I was given some structures to help me succeed. The program, the physio appointments – they were all there to help me reap the benefits of step one.

Back to the Surgeon

After a couple of months I was asked to go back to the surgeon for a check up. Some x-rays, tests, physical manoeuvring of the knee etc. I was assessed and new information was passed on to me. In my case, the exact nature of the surgery, what I can now do and when, possible next steps based on the results. Remember I was given options of varying degrees of brutality. This was another incentive for me to make the surgery that I did have work. I really didn’t like the other alternatives!

I was also given an assessment as to my recovery so far…and good news…

An extract of a letter from the surgeon noting phenomenally good recovery
I felt pleased with that verdict

But that’s not the end of my Agile Pathway to recovery…

Back to the Physio

A sheet of exercises for rehabilitating the knee
My exercises were changed and the bar was raised

The graft won’t be complete until three months post surgery so I need to be careful still but I also need to maintain my physical recovery and maintain good habits if I am to reap the rewards. Stopping now would be declaring victory too soon – one of John Kotter’s big mistakes of change initiatives.

The Power of Community

Another tool I have leveraged to help me keep going until I internalise my new desired habit is that of community. Peer support and peer accountability are strong contributors to individual success and so, as well making a verbal and visible commitment to my children about my exercise regime (I don’t want to be the Dad who doesn’t do his homework!), I also looked to the Peloton community.

I measured the difference in frequency and output of exercising on my own versus in the Peloton community and I exercised 3 times more regularly and for almost 50% more per session when online with others. These sessions didn’t even need to be live and I didn’t need to know the people in the community. I estimate this would be an even stronger correlation if I cared more about the people personally in the community.

In the Scrum Mastery Pathway we deliberately set up cohorts and continuity of Guide to create and maintain that sense of community. Students learn from each other, support each other, motivate each other and this is key to developing that self-sufficiency and resilience. Because, after all, even at the end of the Agile Pathway, you’re never done.

Geoff on a hospital bed having his wounds and stitches checked
A check up with the nurse to see the progress of the wounds

A Never Ending Agile Pathway

Just like my physical wellbeing, if I revert back to my old habits then I will likely suffer. Similarly if we stop learning and reflecting we don’t just stay where we are, we degrade. Equally the company that thinks they are done with their cultural change, will soon be “done” (but not in the sense they think).

This idea of never completing and being “done” is a huge psychological challenge we will come to in a future post. But, for now, get down and give yourself twenty!

And if your knees are fine but you would like some agile reconstruction then maybe one of our Agile Pathways are for you.

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