If someone is working on something leave them alone – A source of Agile performance improvement.

Once a person reaches a state of flow with a task (fully focused and owrking optimially) once they are interupted it typically takes Twenty three minutes for them to get back in to the task and 30 mins to get back to that peak performance “state of flow”, basically every time you interrupt me you could take me an hour to get back to where I was before interuption. The scary side is they found there is a  One in Eight chance I wont go back at all that day, thus diverted away fromw whats needed.

If someone is working, unless its really needed, and you cant make progress alone, leave them alone or wait until they are on a break. Naturally common sense applies.

Here is a great link to an blog post by Steve Pavlina on interruption and its impact on a persons productivity and ability to work. This goes with the general rule of slicing people time, every time you slide a person between projects you lose 10% of the net capacity and this explains some of that in more detail. its also interesting that there is a 1 in 8 chance the person you disturb does not get back to the task at had on the same day.

Please Don’t Interrupt.

This really enforces the Agile view that tasks should be short and focused to people can get things done, that establishing a rhythm is good so people can plan there time without interruption  and that having a person such as a scrum master whos job is to help prevent interruptions is a high value role.

Parkinson’s Law and Agile

One of the greatest threats to performance is a simple element of human nature most often referred to Parkinsons Law. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” there is much more to this law, in order for the work to expand other things must expand also, for the work to expand other elements relating to the work must expand also, complexity expands, capabilities expend.

So here we hit the joys of Agile, Agile uses short focused time boxes in terms of the daily cycle or the longer iteration or sprint cycle. That short cycle, those tight time boxes mean that you only have time to focus on what’s needed, what must happen. you can only focus on the musts (MSCW), so forcing the delivery to be quick, to be focused, elegant and , ensuring absence of waste(no time for extras)  and absence of complexity.

Thus one of the great advantages of Agile is that is specifically addresses Parkinsons Law,  Agile and specifically time boxes  better focus the team. Its better to under deliver (just enough but not to much) than over deliver.

Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill the time available for its completion

This means that if you reserve a set amount of time to do something then even if you don’t need that amount of time (psychologically speaking) the task grow in size and complexity until it fills the space you have allocated, often you will find yourself running out of time and even over running. This is why you never plan contingency into tasks if you do, you will use it its human nature. So when your planning plan like a realistic optimist, keep a supply of contingency some where close, tell people its there but tell them they have to go through a form of beauty competition to get it.  The beauty competition will be enough to keep people focused and trying ot get things done on time, but knowing there is contingency will encourage people to be braver on there estimates.

Gregory’s iPhone Contract

Ms | Janell Burley Hofmann, your a genius -i think this is a great and in many ways its an example of what leader , scrum master and managers should have with their teams.  I like to call them Working Agreements, its written in a simple caring way that’s still real. It tells uswho we are but also how we will be with others, I love the fact it accepts that mistakes will be made, we will fail, we will fall and then we will get up off the ground and try again. Wonderful.


Gregory’s iPhone Contract | Janell Burley Hofmann.