Band practice last night. We hadn’t played together in a few weeks because I was on the road. I sat down behind the drums and grabbed my sticks and counted off and we were into “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters. This is a great tune that starts out in 7/4 time, and has a bridge in 7/4 time. I love odd time signatures. What makes odd time cool is the need for all band members to be aware. Even time signatures, like 4/4, are more “natural”, like muscle memory. We can feel them without thinking because we have always been exposed to even-time signatured music. The first few times you play in 7/4, it feels weird. It is mechanical, clunky, and not very musical. Once you get a feel for it, it starts to flow, and develops a groove all its own.
When I think about the first Sprints a team does, it feels like 7/4 time. It’s not natural. It does not flow. Through practice and more practice, teams start to feel the groove of a Sprint in the same way a band start to feel the groove of a tune in 7/4 time. It starts out with the mechanics of 7/4 time – counting the beats while you play. You make eye contact with the band and watch and listen carefully. You self-correct and adjust in real time as does everyone else. At the end of the song you stop and do a retrospective. What worked? What failed? Why aren’t we grooving yet? After several iterations something starts to happen. You stop thinking about the mechanics and you start thinking about the performance. You listen differently. The focus becomes nuance, dynamics, and finding the sweet spot between your role and roles of the others. You look for and add complements to the parts of others. New muscle memory begins to form. After a while, you can count off, dive in, and the music just grooves. And now with this new muscle memory and groove, you continue to enhance and tweak each part until the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Once you are done-done, there is a feeling of immense satisfaction, energy and a desire to take on another odd-time song. The next 7/4 tune is easier to start, but because you take on a more challenging song in 7/4 time, the impediments to creating art are different. You flex your skills in different ways and broaden your capability. We will sometimes swap instruments to hear things from a different perspective.
If you have ever played in a band, you know the feelings I am describing. And if you ever have been part of a new Scrum team, you know them too. Scrumming +Jamming = SCRAMMING! Listen to the part at 2 minutes and 8 seconds in to “Times like These” for a few nice bars in 7/4 time and count them out.