Marley & Me, & Out Of Office Agile
Have you noticed that once you have embraced the agile mind-set, it follows you outside of the workplace and into the rest of your life? I found myself watching Marley & Me (2008) on TV last night, and when I was watching it, I couldn’t help but see pet ownership and how Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston’s characters were acting with agility. Sure there were no scrums, they didn’t have daily stand-ups, but they did attempt to find solutions to every obstacle that owning a pet had.
Marley was shown to be a particularly poorly behaved dog, his shenanigans filling the film with light-hearted moments that the audience can relate to, or at least see the humour in it.
When Jen, played by Jennifer Aniston, is experiencing what is suspected to be post-partum depression after the birth of the couple’s second child, the unruly pup is shown to be giving her extra unnecessary stress as a stay at home mum. The solution that John, portrayed by Owen Wilson has, is to take Marley to a friend’s house to let Jen get some much needed distance and rest, and was even willing to let Marley be rehomed, as his priority was her happiness. This was something many pet owners experience when they are despairing due to a lack of sleep, with pets unable to understand why their owners are so cranky. Some mornings, of no fault of the pet, getting out to walk isn’t always as easy as others.
I have lost count of the number of mornings I have been irate with my dogs for wanting to sleep in instead of going for their walks, when I have an early morning shift. It isn’t their fault, nor is it mine. They don’t understand that you can’t be late to work.
I often let my dogs go to kennels when I need a break from the chaos, just as John had Marley spend a day or two with a friend, a financial liberty not everyone has, admittedly. But, having distance from the problem would allow me the chance to address things, such as trying to catch up on sleep.
However, the attempts of dog training that take place toward the start of the film, are what struck me most as similar to agile practice in the workplace. Anyone who doesn’t own a dog, probably sees dozens of well-behaved dogs, bounding beside their people, but, dog owners are privy to the efforts it takes to work on walking. Marley and his habits of pulling, dramatized for comedic purposes, are commonplace for dog owners. John and Jen struggle with lead control.
Similarly with iterations, it takes John and Jen a while, and several different trial and error experiences to wind in their unruly dog, from walking him and hoping he grows out of it, to taking him to obedience school, to getting him neutered, Marley eventually grows to be better at walking, being shown pulling on his lead less and less as the film goes on, and although they never show the exact solution, the trial and error approach to how they trained him struck a cord.
Likewise, Marley’s boisterous attitude provides a variety of obstacles, which were summarised in the following snippits from the following monologue:
“Woke up to a kiss from Marley. Went for a walk that turned into a run. Threw sticks for Marley in the park. Watched him swim in the bay. Watched him steal some guy's Frisbee. Bought a new Frisbee for the guy. Gave Marley a bath.
Went to work with writers' block. Hoped for inspiration to strike. Nada.
Got a new shirt. Got a new keyboard. Got the same old paycheck. Went wind surfing with Sebastian. Met his new girlfriend Sasha. Met his other new girlfriend Angie. Watched models posing in the surf. Wrote a column about the growth of South Beach. Interviewed Gloria and Emilio Estefan at the Cordozo Hotel. Introduced them to Jenny, who gushed like a teenager.
Went shopping at the mall. Bought a Sharper Image pillow. Slept like a baby. Caught Marley eating the pillow. Hid the evidence from Jenny. Cleaned up Marley's vomit in the kitchen. Helped Jenny make dinner. Overcooked the spaghetti. Got into a food fight.
Proofread Jenny's column. Read Sebastian's latest opus. Went running with Marley to burn off frustration. Didn't see him chew through the leash. Chased him 15 blocks. Had to call Jenny for a ride.
Wrote a column about gas prices. Wrote a column about water prices. Found one tiny orange on our tree. Jenny very pleased with herself. Found my first gray hair. Found Jenny's first gray hair. Bought Jenny flowers.
Rescued our new mailman from Marley. Rescued a U.P.S. Guy from Marley.
Invited my parents to visit. Took them out to dinner at a cool place on South Beach. Got into a fight with Dad over the check. Got into a fight with Dad about money. Got into a fight with Jenny about all the fighting. Drove my parents to the airport. Listened to them complain about not having grandchildren.
Tracked a hurricane heading for south Florida. Hid in the bathroom during the hurricane. Sat in the dark for three days.
Wrote a column about looters. Wrote a column about volunteers. Wrote a column about the beauty of air conditioning.
Watched Marley dig for buried treasure.
Spent Christmas with Jen's sister and her family in Orlando. Left Marley at their house to go to Disney World. Had to buy 'em new baby furniture. Saw Jen light up around the little girls.Got a flat driving home. Wrote a column about state troopers. Wrote a column about toll booths.
Went to dinner to celebrate Jenny's raise. Tied Marley to the table. Chased Marley and the table. Caught the table. Wrote a column about Marley pulling the table. Tried to write a column about anything but Marley. Nada.
Picked oranges from our tree. Made orange juice.
Drove down to Miami for Bark in the Park Night at the Marlins game. Brought Marley, who turned out to be a real baseball fan. Tried to stop him from chasing a foul ball in the stands. Tried to stop him from chasing a foul ball on the field.
Wrote a column about the ball game. Took crap from Sebastian about it. Met his new girlfriend. Can't remember her name. Went snorkeling with them. Cut my leg on a piece of coral. Went to the emergency room. Wrote a column about hospitals.
Went to an Easter egg hunt at Jenny's boss's house in Boca. Drank mimosas. Met a doctor who does three liposuctions a day. Wrote a column about nannies in Boca. Wrote a column about the women of Boca. Wrote a column about writing columns. Came home to find Jenny dancing with Marley. Tried to think of reasons not to have a baby now. Nada.”
The above monologue basically summarises almost a year in experiences that John has, striking them off like a list. It explored Marley’s behaviour as a young dog, many dogs start to mellow out between the ages of two and three, so this period of time is rushed in order to explore Marley’s entire life with John, Jen and their growing family, but in this way that was humorous and quick, and once again, they cease to explain how they managed to improve his behaviour because although he is still being mischevious, he is still shown to be getting better at lead control and general obedience. He is said to be over the age of two in the next scene, which makes sense with his behaviour.
Each experience is something to learn from as a pet owner. This is epitomised by the lightearted nature these moments are discussed with. In an ideal world we should all strive to add a bit of Marley into our workplaces, a bit of fun, a bit of humour, something funny and bright.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
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