Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Voluntary overtime

Expand Messages
  • Gary Williams
    I have a couple of developers on a high performing team that are consistently working overtime (nights, weekends).  I ve verified that this self-generated and
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
    • 0 Attachment
      I have a couple of developers on a high performing team that are consistently working overtime (nights, weekends).  I've verified that this self-generated and seems to be based on their interest in cracking the problems involved.  Do I try and discourage this based on the principle of sustainable pace?  My fear is that it will simply drive it underground which doesn't change anything and loses transparency.  The motto from a previous workplace was "you can't control the coding underground" and I think that fits here, but I'm concerned about burnout.  The application in question is new technology and a coding challenge both mathematically and graphically.  The team is producing wonderfully via what they call 'organized chaos' and I don't want to mess with what's working.

      Any ideas?

      Gary Williams
    • Laurent Bossavit
      Hi Gary, ... Here s a suggestion - ask the other developers how they feel about that - both in terms of team dynamics, and in terms of how they like working
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
      • 0 Attachment
        Hi Gary,

        > I have a couple of developers on a high performing team that are consistently working overtime (nights, weekends). I've verified that this self-generated and seems to be based on their interest in cracking the problems involved.


        Here's a suggestion - ask the other developers how they feel about that - both in terms of team dynamics, and in terms of how they like working with the code produced in those sessions.

        If everyone is OK with it, I'd let it slide. What I wonder is whether this is elitism at play - the "guru" devs trying to make themselves more indispensable than the rest of the team, at the sacrifice of helping the others grow.

        For some reason this reminds me of a true story from my young coder days. When my (then smaller) family was away on vacation I'd often work late, and even occasionally outside of vacations when a major release loomed. One of my coworkers did that too, quite regularly (and even outside of vacations). I'd always assumed that, just as I did, he was grinding away at our common codebase - adding stuff, polishing, restructuring, bug-fixing. Much later I found out the reason he'd been staying in the office so late - he'd been working on personal projects.

        Cheers,
        Laurent
      • Gary Williams
        The other developers seem to be OK with it, but I ll bring it up in the retro.  The one developer is the opposite of the guru.  He is shy, quiet, devoted
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
        • 0 Attachment
          The other developers seem to be OK with it, but I'll bring it up in the retro.  The one developer is the 'opposite' of the guru.  He is shy, quiet, devoted to his family and a genius at the really hard stuff.  I think he just gets caught up in the problem and doesn't break free - the big problem is that he tends to take criticism to heart, so I want to be careful what I say.  A former product owner mentioned that he wasn't happy with the speed of something and the dev stayed nearly 24 hours to fix it. The other developer is more the 'guru' type, but he seems to code late from a combination of meetings (dev lead / architect / clean up from his old job) and boredom.

          Gary


          From: Laurent Bossavit <lolists@...>
          To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Friday, April 20, 2012 3:18 PM
          Subject: Re: [scrumdevelopment] Voluntary overtime

           
          Hi Gary,

          > I have a couple of developers on a high performing team that are consistently working overtime (nights, weekends). I've verified that this self-generated and seems to be based on their interest in cracking the problems involved.

          Here's a suggestion - ask the other developers how they feel about that - both in terms of team dynamics, and in terms of how they like working with the code produced in those sessions.

          If everyone is OK with it, I'd let it slide. What I wonder is whether this is elitism at play - the "guru" devs trying to make themselves more indispensable than the rest of the team, at the sacrifice of helping the others grow.

          For some reason this reminds me of a true story from my young coder days. When my (then smaller) family was away on vacation I'd often work late, and even occasionally outside of vacations when a major release loomed. One of my coworkers did that too, quite regularly (and even outside of vacations). I'd always assumed that, just as I did, he was grinding away at our common codebase - adding stuff, polishing, restructuring, bug-fixing. Much later I found out the reason he'd been staying in the office so late - he'd been working on personal projects.

          Cheers,
          Laurent



        • David H
          ... Interesting Laurent. Why would you let it slide? It is common empirically proven in more than one study that human beings cannot maintain the amount of
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
          • 0 Attachment

            <snip>
            If everyone is OK with it, I'd let it slide. What I wonder is whether this is elitism at play - the "guru" devs trying to make themselves more indispensable than the rest of the team, at the sacrifice of helping the others grow.

            Interesting Laurent. Why would you let it slide? 
            It is common empirically proven in more than one study that human beings cannot maintain the amount of work-load he described indefinitely. It does not matter whether it is involuntary or voluntarily. Sooner or later their bodies will shut down, not to mention the stresses of family, friends etc. 
            So from a business owners perspective it makes no sense to "let is slide" as that would jeopardize his business investment. As much as I am all for self organised teams every chaotic system has bounding criteria. 

            To the OP. I would sit the team down and explain to them very clearly the impact their behaviour is having on the business and their continued employment. I would frame it in a manner that explains how proud you are and the business owners of their dedication and loyalty, however then I would remind them of the bigger picture. Not to mention that it is your duty as an employer to keep them healthy and enforce any maximum work hours legislation your might have in your country.

            -d
          • Laurent Bossavit
            Hi David, ... Assumption of adult behaviour. If nothing sinister is going on, I m not going to play nanny. :) Cheers, Laurent
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
            • 0 Attachment
              Hi David,

              > Why would you let it slide?


              Assumption of adult behaviour. If nothing sinister is going on, I'm not going to play nanny. :)

              Cheers,
              Laurent
            • Laurent Bossavit
              Hi David, ... An additional thought - I wouldn t have that kind of talk unless I had definite and specific evidence of this impact on the business . (And I d
              Message 6 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
              • 0 Attachment
                Hi David,

                > I would sit the team down and explain to them very clearly the impact their behaviour is having on the business and their continued employment.

                An additional thought - I wouldn't have that kind of talk unless I had definite and specific evidence of this "impact on the business". (And I'd not make any threats during the discovery stage.)

                If I did have that evidence, then my previous "nothing sinister going on" hypothesis is of course challenged.

                Cheers,
                Laurent
              • Michael James
                I m a little worried about one size fits all pronouncements. For me, it seems the ideal number of hours I could productively focus during a week has varied
                Message 7 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
                • 0 Attachment
                  I'm a little worried about one size fits all pronouncements.  For me, it seems the ideal number of hours I could productively focus during a week has varied radically according to whatever else has been going on in my life.  I suppose I could have been lying to myself, but there have been stages where I do think I was capable of much more than 40 good hours per week.  That's not true of me today though.

                  To argue against myself here, the book _Flow_ describes an experiment of randomly sampling what people were thinking about at random times during the day.  As I recall, it showed most people actually working 30 hours per week, regardless of whether they were at the office.  Would be interesting to try that now that everyone's playing on Facebook/Twitter/Slashdot at the office and responding to work emails while at home (or on the freeway).

                  --mj
                  (Michael)

                  On Apr 20, 2012, at 2:06 PM, Laurent Bossavit wrote:

                   

                  Hi David,

                  > Why would you let it slide?

                  Assumption of adult behaviour. If nothing sinister is going on, I'm not going to play nanny. :)

                  Cheers,
                  Laurent


                • David H
                  ... I am quite sure that we can agree on a variation of what we can actually sustain within a short term period. What I am referring to is long term
                  Message 8 of 12 , Apr 20, 2012
                  • 0 Attachment
                    On Friday, 20 April, 2012 at 5:31 PM, Michael James wrote:
                     

                    I'm a little worried about one size fits all pronouncements.  For me, it seems the ideal number of hours I could productively focus during a week has varied radically according to whatever else has been going on in my life.  I suppose I could have been lying to myself, but there have been stages where I do think I was capable of much more than 40 good hours per week.  That's not true of me today though.


                    I am quite sure that we can agree on a variation of what we can actually sustain within a short term period. What I am referring to is long term sustainability and on that topic a multitude of studies both on the body and specifically the brain have proven that over a prolonged period of time even 40h work weeks are taxing. 

                     
                    To argue against myself here, the book _Flow_ describes an experiment of randomly sampling what people were thinking about at random times during the day.

                    There is actually a TED talk by the author himself I highly recommend you have a look at it

                    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow

                    http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow.html
                     
                     As I recall, it showed most people actually working 30 hours per week, regardless of whether they were at the office.  Would be interesting to try that now that everyone's playing on Facebook/Twitter/Slashdot at the office and responding to work emails while at home (or on the freeway).

                    What you describe there is a chosen behaviour. I do not answer my work phone after I have left work (as I am not required to be on call). That seems to be a learned behaviour, especially in the United States. That will not change anything about the evolutionary limitations that make us human. 

                    -d 
                  • Adrian Howard
                    Hi Laurent, ... Something that I ve tried a couple of times in the past is suggesting to the team the idea of working more normal hours as an experiment. Hey
                    Message 9 of 12 , Apr 21, 2012
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Hi Laurent,

                      On 20 Apr 2012, at 22:07, Laurent Bossavit wrote:

                      > An additional thought - I wouldn't have that kind of talk unless I had definite and specific evidence of this "impact on the business". (And I'd not make any threats during the discovery stage.)

                      Something that I've tried a couple of times in the past is suggesting to the team the idea of working more normal hours as an experiment.

                      "Hey folks - there's all this evidence that working long hours adversely affects delivery. Let's try working a maximum of 7 hours a day for six weeks and see what happens".

                      In once case I made a ceremony out of closing time. Rang a hand-bell at going home time. Shut off the power in the dev room 20m later with no further warning. For UK folk - like calling time in the pub :-)

                      Good things from trying this:

                      * It's actually an interesting experiment - and if most of your team is working over 40 hours a week you'll likely see improvements on throughput and bug levels after a couple of weeks (in my experience anyway)

                      * Compliance comes from the team decision, you're not targeting individuals

                      * You're focusing on the team performance, not individual performance

                      * There is a class of geek where breaking experimental protocol is a major sin - this helps with compliance

                      * It gives folk enough time to find a "new normal" in their work/non-work time which is more likely to stick

                      * The whole team does it so there is natural peer pressure to do the same.

                      * There's a nice kind of bonding to everybody leaving at the same time.

                      Bad things:

                      * The first week or too always seem to go badly. People crash when the pressure is relieved and it takes a bit for them to recover. That's why I suggest at least six weeks so you get a month of "normal" after the bad initial period.

                      * You need to *really* sure that the long hours are not caused by "avoiding going home" rather than "wanting to stay at work". I royally f**ked up on one occasion pushing hard on shorter hours when a developer was staying late to avoid an abusive relationship at home. I hindsight I should have picked up on that *way* earlier than I did :-(

                      * The push back from management on working fewer hours can be impressive. Even when you have evidence that it's more productive.

                      * Some people fell back into the old ways as soon as the experiment ended. These seemed to be folk locked into the "hero developer" mould.

                      * If the rest of the company is working longer hours it can lead to friction - even when you have evidence that it's more productive.

                      I'd be interested to know if anybody else has tried this.

                      Cheers,

                      Adrian
                      --
                      http://quietstars.com adrianh@... twitter.com/adrianh
                      t. +44 (0)7752 419080 skype adrianjohnhoward del.icio.us/adrianh
                    • Adrian Howard
                      Hi Michael, ... Not disagreeing with the one-size-fits-all problem. However, it s been my experience that folk are *very* good at deceiving themselves about
                      Message 10 of 12 , Apr 21, 2012
                      • 0 Attachment
                        Hi Michael,

                        On 20 Apr 2012, at 22:31, Michael James wrote:

                        > I'm a little worried about one size fits all pronouncements. For me, it seems the ideal number of hours I could productively focus during a week has varied radically according to whatever else has been going on in my life. I suppose I could have been lying to myself, but there have been stages where I do think I was capable of much more than 40 good hours per week. That's not true of me today though.

                        Not disagreeing with the one-size-fits-all problem.

                        However, it's been my experience that folk are *very* good at deceiving themselves about their productivity (myself included :-).

                        One of the plus points that I forgot to include on the running shorter hours as a team experiment post I just sent is:

                        * Some team members are *shocked* by how much more productive they are with fewer hours. By gathering stats on work done, bug reports, etc. folks convince themselves.

                        I'll include myself in the shocked category ;-)

                        The first time I did the experiment thing I was "only" working about 45 hours a week, when other people on the team were regularly working 50-60.

                        I was relatively young, didn't have any family pressure, enjoyed my work and felt very productive doing those hours. I wasn't one of the people with a "problem" as I saw it. We were running the experiment for the other folk on the team.

                        In the experiment we dropped to a 40 hours week (6 hours coding per day, 2 hours for breaks, meetings & lunch). After a couple of weeks adjustment my productivity went *way* up. I also felt a lot better in myself - generally sharper and more on the ball.

                        People seem to have quite a wide bad of "this feels okay" that subsumes the much narrower "I'm performing at my best".

                        Also people don't jump from 40 to 60 hours a week. It creeps up a few minutes at a time as pressure increases on the team. People have enough time to adjust to it being "normal" and don't notice the drop in productivity that goes with it.

                        Cheers,

                        Adrian
                        --
                        http://quietstars.com adrianh@... twitter.com/adrianh
                        t. +44 (0)7752 419080 skype adrianjohnhoward del.icio.us/adrianh
                      • SeanH
                        I think I would let the team continue as-is, but I would communicate to the stakeholders that it is likely the team s output is likely to degrade. Explain that
                        Message 11 of 12 , May 3, 2012
                        • 0 Attachment
                          I think I would let the team continue as-is, but I would communicate to the stakeholders that it is likely the team's output is likely to degrade. Explain that there are team members who are voluntarily putting in extra time, and that you don't expect that burst to be sustainable. That way you are preparing the right people for the inevitable drop in velocity that is coming. And if/when that drop does arrive, you have something to reflect upon with the team.


                          --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Gary Williams <adtz_the_enchanter@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I have a couple of developers on a high performing team that are consistently working overtime (nights, weekends).  I've verified that this self-generated and seems to be based on their interest in cracking the problems involved.  Do I try and discourage this based on the principle of sustainable pace?  My fear is that it will simply drive it underground which doesn't change anything and loses transparency.  The motto from a previous workplace was "you can't control the coding underground" and I think that fits here, but I'm concerned about burnout.  The application in question is new technology and a coding challenge both mathematically and graphically.  The team is producing wonderfully via what they call 'organized chaos' and I don't want to mess with what's working.
                          >
                          >
                          > Any ideas?
                          >
                          > Gary Williams
                          >
                        • Gary Williams
                          Well, I discussed it with the team in the retro and the reaction was mixed.  The lead dev has not been completely extracted from his previous project and has
                          Message 12 of 12 , May 3, 2012
                          • 0 Attachment
                            Well, I discussed it with the team in the retro and the reaction was mixed.  The lead dev has not been completely extracted from his previous project and has a bunch of crap meetings I don't have an ability to mitigate - so he does his development when he can.  Our other developer did a statistical analysis of his time (44.9 hrs/ wk, rounded to the nearest 10th, with a standard deviation of 4.4) and seems to be listening.  So I think I will continue with gentle reminders on the subject and see how it works out.  I'm afraid we are seriously burning out the lead and I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with that.  I'll discuss that with my coach and see where we end up.

                            Appreciate the advice so far and if you think of anything else. let me know.

                            Thanks,

                            Gary Williams

                            From: SeanH <seanh242@...>
                            To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
                            Sent: Thursday, May 3, 2012 8:47 AM
                            Subject: [scrumdevelopment] Re: Voluntary overtime

                             
                            I think I would let the team continue as-is, but I would communicate to the stakeholders that it is likely the team's output is likely to degrade. Explain that there are team members who are voluntarily putting in extra time, and that you don't expect that burst to be sustainable. That way you are preparing the right people for the inevitable drop in velocity that is coming. And if/when that drop does arrive, you have something to reflect upon with the team.

                            --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Gary Williams <adtz_the_enchanter@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > I have a couple of developers on a high performing team that are consistently working overtime (nights, weekends).  I've verified that this self-generated and seems to be based on their interest in cracking the problems involved.  Do I try and discourage this based on the principle of sustainable pace?  My fear is that it will simply drive it underground which doesn't change anything and loses transparency.  The motto from a previous workplace was "you can't control the coding underground" and I think that fits here, but I'm concerned about burnout.  The application in question is new technology and a coding challenge both mathematically and graphically.  The team is producing wonderfully via what they call 'organized chaos' and I don't want to mess with what's working.
                            >
                            >
                            > Any ideas?
                            >
                            > Gary Williams
                            >



                          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.