Busyness and Slack Time

Photo by Sarah Joy

Photo by Sarah Joy

Lyssa Adkins's Agile Coaches email had a great quote from Henry David Thoreau this morning that I had to share:

It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?

I've noticed many scrum teams that are just starting out focus on keeping everyone busy--is there enough work for all of the developers?  All of the testers?  UX?  Business analysts?  And so on.  Unfortunately, it often means that the team commits to too much work in its iterations, and in-progress stories roll over from one sprint to the next.  How does a Scrum Master help his team get stories to Done?  Stop keeping people busy.

Harvard Business Review recently had an article about busyness that highlights the issue:

busyness seems to be most productive when the tasks we busy ourselves with are also meaningful.

Is the Scrum Master or a manager trying to keep team members' plates full, or is the team doing it themselves?  Often the behavior the team can be traced back to external influences, so listen to the messages that the team is hearing.  Important work shouldn't be left to be done during slack time, so help the team to commit to a realistic amount of work each iteration and have time for learning, improving, and refactoring. 

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.