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223RE: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Splinter Department

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  • Paul Clanton
    Feb 11, 2002
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      I think Mike’s just touched on one of the major issues.  All the good ideas we have been tossing around (and they _are_ all good) depend heavily on the culture of the organization.  What works in one organization may not work in another.  3M’s 15% works because it’s a part of their culture.  The sabbatical worked for me because it fit the culture of the organization I’d worked for at the time.  Mike’s Friday afternoon idea worked with the culture at one place but not another. 


      We’re really talking about encouraging innovation.  If the culture doesn’t support innovation then none of what we’re talking about may be possible.  In this case, I would suggest either working very hard to change that culture or starting to look for another job before the company folds!  On the other hand, if the company does support innovation, one of these approaches may be a good solution.


      I personally favor the sabbatical approach for the same reasons that I find Scrum works well for me, namely that it promotes a concentrated, uninterrupted time for people to become immersed in something.  However, the central theme is encouraging innovation by allowing people time to do something outside of their regular project tasks and that’s more important than the mechanics.  Find something that works and consistently push at it.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Mike Cohn [mailto:mike@...]
      Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2002 4:15 PM
      To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Splinter Department


      You’re right—there can be problems with telling individuals on a team that the Friday afternoon “should” or “must” be spent off the project. I’ve never had a programmer consider it “arm-twisting” though. Usually what happens is that the programmer knows that Friday afternoon is his for anything remotely related to work as long as he has made respectable progress on his assignments and almost every programmer I’ve worked with will do whatever they can to be able to have that time for pursuing their own special interests.


      Of course I’ve never truly forced a programmer not to work on the main project and work on outside things. If a project is behind, desperately needs a few hours, or was going to be in a position where people were going to come in over the weekend (rather voluntarily or not) it would be criminal to tell people not to code on Friday but to be in on Saturday. My comment about telling people that I don’t want them to work on the mainline task is more to fully get the point across that they are not going to impress me with their dedication or commitment by working on the project on Friday afternoon in most cases. With most developers it is very hard to convince them of your sincerity when you tell them you would really rather have them with their feet pitched up reading a good book or contributing to an open source project or such for that few hours a week.


      Also, I want to be clear that I started my comment with “I’ve dealt with this two ways in the past…”.  While I think giving people dedicated time to pursue beneficial tasks outside the mainline project it is not how I’ve been doing it with teams over the past few years. I actually find it much better to just underallocate tasks to the sprint and establish a culture where people know it is OK to spend a little time each week (as appropriate, depending on where the project is and how the sprint is going) on unplanned tasks. However, it is not easy to establish this as part of the culture in most organizations, usually there’s a CEO or CFO or someone who walks around asking “why isn’t Johnny coding?”


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Paul [mailto:horked_noodle@...]
      Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2002 1:43 PM
      To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Splinter Department


      You just took a good idea and made it a bad one.  I
      really don't like this arm-twisting idea that every
      Friday you will work on something outside of your
      project.  What happens when spring goals are not being
      met?  The better idea was 3M which leaves the decision
      up to the individual who has other commitments (
      Sprint Goals ).

          -- Paul

      --- Mike Cohn <mike@...> wrote:

      > I've dealt with this two ways in the past:
      > 1)       allowing teams to take every
      > 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.

      > --Mike

      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: mpoppendieck [mailto:mary@...]
      > Sent: Saturday, February 09,
      2002 9:14 AM
      > To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
      > 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
      > work,
      > 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
      > the results.
      > So I would argue that allowing (not scheduling,
      > allowing) slack in
      > everyone's normal schedule, instead of expecting
      > everyone to be
      > 100%
      > committed to what their management wants them to do,
      > is a good
      > thing. 


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