Thanks to the jet lag from my recent trip I’ve been waking up around 4am every morning for the last few days. That means it’s coffee time extra early!

After a particular revolting cup of coffee from the convenient pod machine, enough was enough. I set out to find a new coffee maker. One that was flexible enough to make different types of coffee and easy enough for a n00b to use.

I settled on a low-to-mid end machine based on the reviews I read.

Follow the Directions Dummy!

Whoops, wrong filter!

Whoops, wrong filter!

Cup 1: Grind was too fine and I packed the coffee to tightly, so the pressure gauge shot straight to overload and the machine shut down.

Cup 2: Reduce fineness of the grind from 5 to 8 (on a scale from 1 to 16), tamped with less pressure. Similar result.

Cups 3 through 6: pretty much the same, reducing the amount of coffee, reducing the fineness of the grind and tamping with less pressure. Minor improvement each time.

1/4 of a bag of expensive beans later, finally, the perfect cup. Well, perfect is a relative term given the swill my one-button pod machine had been making.

The next experiment was using the fine grind I had been using in the pod machine instead of using the built-in grinder. This time instead of cappuccino, I shot for a long dark.

Cup 1: too much water.

Cup 2: too bitter.

Cup 3: frothy milk fixes all!

I followed the trouble-shooting guide to the letter until I had put together a string of fairly consistent brews.

Full moon pattern FTW!

Full moon pattern FTW!

Stay in Shu

To prepare for my afternoon funders call with Happy Melly (that I missed because apparently I don’t know the difference between CET and CEST), I figured I had this thing down cold. After all, I had experimented with 10 cups so far AND I watched a YouTube video!

Whoops, I used the wrong filter and wasted more expensive beans. The machine came with 4 filters. Single and double filters for freshly ground and pre-ground beans and I simply picked the wrong one because they pretty much look the same to me.

This time I tried a half hot water, half double-shot espresso and milk. It was ok, but a little watery.

Then something magical happened. Instead of being content with good enough, I decided to write down my next experiments so I can stay in Shu and practice more. Oh, and the first long dark experiment with my pre-ground beans made me understand why people say the beans and the grind matter most. The short answer is, freshly ground beans > pre-ground beans.

What Will Ha Look Like?

I’m guessing I’ll be in Ha when I can make a really good cup without worrying about it too much. I probably won’t waste any beans and I won’t end up with a revolting cup of coffee due a new experiment.

What Will Ri Look Like?

I’m guessing I’ll be able to tell the difference between the four filters. I suppose I’ll also get a feel for when the milk has been steamed well enough. I also suppose I’ll waste a lot more beans once I decide I’m not happy being stuck in Ha and I want to try something new.

That something new is probably going to be experimenting with the custom programming my machine can do so I can experiment with different temperature settings with different beans.

A World of Experts

The internet has created a world of experts. Anyone with a $12 internet connection can learn anything, anytime and regurgitate it. I, and many others, have written about how the pace of change is accelerating. I think the pace of change and disruption in the business world, coupled with how fast society moves is making a large dent in craftsmanship in all professions. It’s leading to a “meh, good enough…” attitude that if something doesn’t work, we can google it and find a quick fix.

In The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin describes this pattern. Back in caveman days, we had to store two things in our brain. Things we can eat and things that eat us. Today there are 12 million salad dressings available. He describes how writing was considered to be the work of the devil when it was created for inventory tracking purposes. People felt that those who wrote things down would become stupid because they would need to rely on only written words.

Sounds a lot like how older folks today complain about tablets and smartphones. “Back in my day, we didn’t need those baby sitters!” True. Back in your day you didn’t have 17 social media accounts, 32 email addresses, 748 friends on facebook, email and texting that makes communication possible every second of every day instead of once a day when the paper-mail arrived.

It’s a different world and we’re learning how to cope with information overload by using location-based reminders, personal kanban, trello, stick notes and a whole bunch of other productivity tips to keep this generation from going insane.

Given how fast things change, how can we take the time to stay in Shu just a bit longer when it comes to agile skills development? I like what Dr Shimi Kang said when I saw her speak about her parenting book, The Dolphin Parent.

Nothing I’m going to tell you is particularly earth shattering…it’s all simple, but not easy.

Simple. But not easy.

Anyone can say that change only works if there is effective communication, leadership support and buy-in from staff.

Shu level change agents will beat you over the head with a methodology.

Ha level change agents will give you a recipe that worked for them in the past.

You know you have a Ri level change agent when they challenge your questions and help you figure out how to think in your own context.

Updated: I forgot Kokoro! Kokoro level change agents know how to simplify. They know, and can explain, that all the models, gimmicks, frameworks and methods are meaningless and that well-facilitated conversations to help people reach a shared understanding is how change happens.

So be patient, stay in Shu for a little while longer, keep your sights on Ri, but be intentional about how you’ll get to Ha first.

The pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee is going to keep me in Shu until I understand what makes a perfect cup for me. For that to happen, I need a lot more experiments under my belt.