I recently finished reading Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal and it definitely grounded me – stop looking at the details and step back. Shortly after reading this I was listening to a talk on Agile where the presenter asked if anyone had read the book and followed up to see if anyone had read Slack. Having enjoy The Goal, I decided to pick up a copy of Slack based on this and I’m very happy I did!
Slack covers a huge amount of management in a very concise 210 pages, with the primary topic being that brakes need to be applied. Slack, Tom DeMarco describes, is any time you are not working. It is during these periods of time that people get the chance to think and evaluate and this allows a higher quality of plan to form.
If I can only highlight one section, I’d like to highlight the dangers of unintentionally causing yourself to burn out. We estimate the effort of implementing a piece of functionality and track velocity of total effort that can be done within a sprint. The more sprints accomplished the greater the confidence is in the velocity as the volatility decreases and a consistent output materializes.
Yet this is hinged on one of two things happening:
- The work environment remains unchanged – nothing occurs differently that would have an impact on you.
- The environment changes and the plan is updated based on its impact to you.
The possibility of burn out occurs when velocity starts to settle and the confidence in achieving it is high, suddenly it turns from being a metric to being a goal. There is an expectation that it can be done. Still if the environment changes you simply update the plan, but due to the expectation I think there is now a greater change required in the environment to legitimize the changing of velocity. A small task pops up unrelated to the work that consumes 2 hours – does this really require change? On its on maybe not, but then it starts popping up more and it gradually becomes a downward slope and you find yourself in the “Hurry Up” mantra describes it working away at breakneck speed which, as Tom points out, got its name for a good reason…
Best option, I guess, is to always be on the look out for this and to ensure when you start to veer off and need to work to gain the Slack required to effectively do you job.. that it is time to reset things.