Clear goals and feedback is a phrase I was reading in Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (apparently pronounced Mi High Cheek Sent Me High). This phrase got me thinking about how agile sprints work. Csikszentmihalyi talks about the near instant feedback of the tennis player. They know when they have succeeded in hitting the ball over the fence to their opponent. Working with user stories, I know when I have reached my goal thanks to the definition of done.
Csikszentmihalyi goes on to talk about emerging clarity of goals, where they “…are invented on the spot”. He makes reference to kids trying to gross eachother out or making fun of a teacher. The end goal is evolving. This brings me to a lesson I have learnt in applying agile. One of the most common failings I have seen is the lack of availability of the product owner. This talk of emerging goals gets me thinking about why the product owner needs to be there, not just to provide clear goals at the start (users stories or requirements in waterfall) but to make constant decisions and clarifications about relative priorities of user stories, alternative ways of delivering user stories and what the user story is trying to achieve.
So, when we have clear goals (or support from a product owner to clarify as needed) and feedback, we have a good chance of being totally absorbed in our work and experiencing flow. More on flow here.