Sustainable pace

This post was originally published on my old blog: Spike the Poodle

I've heard a few people mention the dreaded "O" word on the project I'm working on (that's "overtime" in case you didn't guess) I believe very strongly in encouraging a sustainable pace instead of working overtime to get things done, and I think it's even more important on agile projects.

Here's a few reasons why, based on my experience:

  • Agile projects are planned based on a team's velocity. If the team had to work overtime to achieve a certain velocity, they'll have to work overtime again to achieve the same velocity. This means planning is based on a greater capacity than is in the team, which is not good!
  • The more time people spend working, the more tired they get. Tired people work slower, and make more mistakes, which ultimately means work takes longer. So the overtime doesn't really speed things up.
  • People need to take time out of work to spend with their families, or on their own lives. A healthy work life balance can result in better motivation, which ultimately helps team motivation, and the work goes faster.
  • In agile projects in particular, the iterations form a steady cycle. Unlike waterfall, where there can be a frantic, stressful time followed by a lull, in iterative development there isn't time to slow down. It's important to keep to a pace that the team can maintain without feeling burned out.

While I do think there's the odd occasion that working overtime can be the right thing to do – for example, pulling an all-nighter to get that important release out of the door – it's just not the answer for projects that are falling behind. It's going to end in lower quality, lower motivation … or both.

The power of positivity.

This post was originally published on my old blog: Spike the Poodle

I learned an important lesson this week about how powerful it is when people are outwardly positive about the project and work they are doing.

Having worked on projects in the past where the team were frustrated and had a tendency to demonstrate that quite vocally – something which I am definitely guilty of doing – at first, I really noticed the positive comments that were quite regular in our daily stand-ups:

"I had a really great meeting about how that system works …"
"The developers got together and now we all feel really good about building the new widget …"
"The BA produced some great diagrams that made the requirements much clearer …"

Every time it happens, it's a little boost to the team members, and helps keep up the motivation of the team in general. I particularly remember a comment about my diagrams, and it made me feel good :)

It wasn't until it was pointed out to me this week by somebody on my team that I realised I wasn't really contributing to the positivity myself though. People do notice – and in ThoughtWorks, they will tell you too!

So my resolution for next week is to try and say something positive and complimentary at least twice a day (n.b. "nice haircut" does not count). Try it – it's easier than you think!