216RE: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Splinter Department
- Feb 9, 2002
I’ve dealt with this two ways in the past:
1) allowing teams to take every Friday afternoon for use in pursuing any company they want *except* work on the main project to which they are assigned (whether Scrum-managed or not). This works well because it gives each person about 10% of their time to spend on any wild ideas they want. I’ve had individuals use this time for reading, for learning new languages, for “study groups” to go over important books in detail, to write magazine articles, etc. I don’t allow people to use the time to work on items in the current sprint backlog because sometimes that leads to peer pressure that forces others to work on the backlog.
2) There is almost always some “friction” or slow time between sprints at some point on a project. In a typically well-run project there might be 3 – 4 sprints that can follow one right after another but usually after that you hit a period where somebody isn’t really ready for a new round of sprints (or they’re barely ready). A lot of times this will be the product management group (or whatever group in an organization defines the backlog/requirements). They may need to go do research with customers (that should have been done sooner) or such and there is a period where the team just doesn’t need to go full speed on the project. This is a great time to encourage people to get creative with how they spend their time.
Also, a fairly relevant question in all of this is whether most developers (programmers and otherwise) will come up with “new products” when left to their own devices for 15% of their time. It sounds like a small percentage of time but it’s not really and I’m not really sure it pays off to the benefits of a business to have every employee spend that much time “away” from mainline work.
In terms of just plain including slack in a schedule, that is very much a necessity but it’s different from telling people to spend 15% of their time on whatever they want. Every team is of course different so percentages are somewhat meaningless but I typically encourage a team to target around 60-70% occupied when they move items into a sprint backlog. So: if the sprint is 20 days * 8 hours that is 160 hours. I’ll encourage teams to pull in about 100 hours each of identified backlog. The rest is spent on whatever else takes up that team’s day (meetings, email, washing my car, etc.) but it also puts them into a mode right off where there isn’t undue pressure that leads to shortcuts. This is different from commitment to the project, though. The team is expected to be committed to the project 100% but slack is allowed in their schedules because they are all trusted to know how best to spend that time. DeMarco’s latest book, “Slack” appropriately enough, is pretty good on the subject but gets pretty repetitious by the end.
From: mpoppendieck [mailto:mary@...]
Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2002 9:14 AM
Subject: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Splinter Department
When people go home from work, they coach their kids sports or
volunteer at church or train for triathlons or engage in other
passions. We certainly don't expect them to give this up for
except maybe temporarily in a crisis. Some people come home from
working on a Scrum team and work on some Open Source code or put
together a database for a boy scout troop, and so on. The point of
the 15% rule is that people who get passionate about something other
than their regular jobs (but related to their company interests) are
encouraged to pursue the idea while on the job. By leveraging this
kind of passion, 3M gets hundreds of new products every year.
I wonder how we can expect every member of a Scrum team to be
totally committed to do nothing but work on the backlog over the
several months a project might run. It seems rather pretentious to
assume this. I suspect that a well-led Scrum team will motivate all
the team members to work only on the customer backlog. But if Scrum
becomes a way of life in an organization, it seems to me that the
organization should admit that some people on some Scrum teams might
get distracted and want to do something else some of the time. If
they can't do it at work, they will do it at home. 3M provides a
simple mechanism to allow everyone some slack, so they can follow
their passions at work, and in exchange, the company cashes in on
So I would argue that allowing (not scheduling, allowing) slack in
everyone's normal schedule, instead of expecting everyone to be
committed to what their management wants them to do, is a good
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