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Commit. You’ll figure it Out!

Commit.  You’ll Figure it out

This past weekend, August 4th and 5th, I rode in the Pan Mass Challenge along with 3 friends.  The Pan-Mass Challenge raises money for life-saving cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through an annual bike-a-thon that crosses the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Since its founding in 1980, the PMC has successfully melded support from committed cyclists, volunteers, corporate sponsors and individual contributors. All are essential to the PMC’s goal and model: to attain maximum fundraising efficiency while increasing its annual gift.

What started as a challenge one night among friends to actually complete the 190 mile bike ride from Sturbridge, MA to Provincetown, MA ended in something far different.  We started training in June\July, going on long weekend bike rides and the focus was all on ourselves.  We bought bikes, riding gear and started learning the lingo as well as our own body’s endurance.  Right up until the start of the race, I was focused on how I was going to finish this long ride and then something hit me.

Committed. PMC Start in Sturbridge, MA

Committed. PMC Start in Sturbridge, MA

It was 5:15am on Saturday, and we were standing at the starting line.  It was really exciting to be surrounded by so many people and I took a picture to post to Facebook.  The comment said, “Only 190 miles to go” and that is when I realized that this ride was no longer about me.

It’s not about me

Seeing so many committed riders and volunteers up so early made me realize that this ride was about so much more than the individual riders.  As we made our way across the starting line, there were about 100 or so people standing on the sideline with signs thanking us for helping them.  As we said Thank You to them for cheering us on, they said Thank You for riding and raising money for Cancer research.  This was only the beginning.

As we slowly made our way through the streets of Western Massachusetts, people were standing on the streets thanking us.  There were people with their children still in their pajama’s at 6am ringing cow bells cheering the riders on.  There were people in wheel chairs holding signs thanking us and letting us know they were survivors.  We saw a man playing the Trumpet at the top of a hill trying to encourage us; a Calypso band, a group of girls playing the Bag Pipes, huge gatherings of people in front lawns and individual adults and children standing on the sides of the street.  Again and again, as we thanked everyone for cheering us on, they thanked us for our commitment.

109 Miles to Bourne

After riding for over 8 hours, we finally made it to Bourne, MA and the “half way” point of the ride.  After storing our bikes and getting changed, I spotted a T-Shirt that truly summed it all up.  The shirt was a PMC shirt from a year or two back and it said:  Commit.  You’ll figure it out.  This simple statement made a big impact on me which brings me to this blog entry.

Commit. You'll figure it out

Commit. You’ll figure it out

I started the PMC by registering for a 190 bike ride where I had to raise $5,000.  The ride was about 3 months away, I didn’t know the first thing about cycling other than what I did as a kid and I didn’t have a single donation.  I signed up and committed to riding and thought that I would figure it out.  As of today, not only did I complete the ride, but I raised more than the $5,000 commitment and hope to continue raising until the October deadline.  The simple slogan was so true.

What does this have to do with Agile?

Of course, being an Agile coach, trainer and consultant, the PMC slogan had another meaning to me altogether.  “Commit.  You’ll figure it out” epitomized to me the Self-Organizing team more than any slogan I have heard.  Working with a team of people towards a common goal with lots of uncertainty, there must be a sense that you will figure it out somehow or you would never start in the first place.

It brought me to a client of mine that is nearing the end of a long project and things are starting to heat up and focus on deployment.  Each Sprint is packed with complex tasks and activities that the team is committing to that push the boundaries of what is possible in a 3 week time period.  Not once in our Sprint planning meeting did we stop to discuss “How” the work would be done.  People signed up for tasks and made a commitment to the team that they would “Figure it out”.

Comparing the commitment I made to ride in the 2013 PMC to what an Agile team does for each Sprint may seem like comparing Apples to Oranges.  We are talking about a 190 mile bike ride to raise money for Cancer research being compared to building some feature\product that a company will sell for a profit, however, neither will succeed without a Commitment.

If there is one thing I would like to leave you with from my experience doing something that truly wasn’t about myself, it is this slogan,  “Commit.  You’ll figure it out”.  This simple slogan is so powerful in so many ways and yet it brings out what makes people so remarkable in what can be done when you are all focused on the same goal.

Commit.  Even if you make mistakes

I couldn’t resist writing about one more thing.  After learning that the day 2 start from Bourne to Provincetown wasn’t a formal start, we planned our day.  We would get up at 5am, leave Falmouth by 5:30am and get going on the last leg of the ride with everyone leaving that morning for Provincetown.  Only one problem:  Everyone left at 5:30am.

Late for Breakfast

Late for Breakfast

What should have been a field filled with 2,000 or so bikes, looked more like the end of a concert.  There were 4 bikes remaining on the racks.  Everyone had started the ride and it was only our bikes that remained.

After getting over the comedy of the situation, we quickly jumped on our bikes and started the last leg just as we started the first. The 4 of us were committed to finish.

Riding over the Bourne Bridge as a team of 4 and seeing no-one in sight reminded me that even though mistakes will happen, once you commit to something, nothing will prevent you from accomplishing your goal.

If you are interested in making your own Commitment and would like to make a donation to the 2013 PMC, please click here.  You’ll figure it out.