Filling Spaces

When did good enough become ‘enough’?  The more clients I work with, and more teams I encounter- the more I think complacency has become the new norm!  Enter Parkinson’s Law.  For those of you not familiar, Parkinson’s law is nothing more than an adage first noted by (surprise!) Cyril Parkinson in 1955.  It has little scientific founding; rather, it is an observation based on experience, and can be correlated to numerous situations and environments.  It goes (for our purposes) a little something like:

Work committed to, tends to fill the time frame allotted.

Now this seems like an axiom that we all could agree with.  I mean, we try not to take on too much work- right?  Consider the outcomes:

  1. We take on just the right amount of work.  Check.
  2. We take on too much work.  We remove some to fit.  Check.
  3. We take on too little work.  We catch up on other stuff, technical debt, etc. (and we try not to let on about it!)

To put a fine point on this, I would offer up 3 thoughts.

First, don’t take your foot off the gas.  It’s called a sprint for a reason.  I often see teams get ‘ahead’ on the burndown, and then relax- only to fail in delivering the full commitment.  And if you are delivering your full commitment, but quality is in question- you may need to reexamine your definition of done to satisfy both the needs of the business, as well as the quality of delivery that you want to represent your team.  Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here- you do need to consider what is a sustainable pace for your team!

Second, if you are finding yourself in position #3 above, and there is true value to that work (other stuff), shouldn’t someone be lobbying for it in your sprint?  Technical debt should be considered first-class work as well, and you may need to employ a technical product owner (TPO) to represent this to your Product Owner (translation = get it in your backlog!  That whole visibility thing?). If this isn’t happening today, consider bringing it up in your retrospective.  If this is hindering you to a point of inefficiency, consider bringing it up today!  Yes, you can bring up a ‘done well’ or ‘not done well’ in advance of the retro (remember, the retro is simply a tool to create a forum to voice things like this- not a hardened rule that it’s the only place to do this!) J

Lastly, and many of my contemporaries would disagree with me on this point- stretch yourself.  Sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you try.  Kind of like not being able to get better at (insert sport here) until you play a better opponent.  I’m not saying to stuff your sprint to 150%, and I’m not saying to not manage your load along the sprint either.  I am saying that there is value in understanding the potential of your team, as well as understanding the dynamics of the team- and sometimes, stretching provides that perspective.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

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