What If We Didn’t Have to Run Those 4 Miles?

We all want to be productive, right? But when does our desire to be productive, and our mental model of what “being productive” looks like, get in the way?

It’s 8:30 on a Wednesday morning. This particular cross-functional team (representatives from multiple teams across the organization) meets 3 times a week to coordinate activities around an organizational goal. This is a version of the “daily standup” (or perhaps the scrum-of-scrums), although, being a video call, most members are sitting down. There’s a sharing of what’s been accomplished, what people (and the teams they represent) are working on next, and how they will coordinate to make the next pieces happen. People are motivated, and there’s a sense of urgency – this is an important goal for the organization, and there are time-sensitive business issues at stake.

Heads Down, Run Fast

What I notice is a sense of “heads down, run fast”. But unlike the regular sprint cadence of the scrum teams, this team does not have a built-in pause-and-reflect mechanism. So the questions that are arising in my mind are:

  • What impediments is this team coping with, rather than resolving?
  • How do they know that what they are heads-down on will get them to where they want to go?
  • How are our handoffs going? How could they be improved?
  • What would additional or “better” support from the organization look like?

Pause and Reflect

In my mind, this effort is a bit like a race to the finish – but not a race with a set course. Taking that time to pause and reflect – such as a retrospective– is like pausing to check the map. Is there a different path to the finish? Can we cut significant distance off, or is there a steep hill we don’t have to go over? While the heads-down focus and the desire to continue being productive is admirable, would the pause to reflect actually hurt, or help?

What if we didn’t have to run those 4 miles?

What about you? Is your team running more miles than they need to?  

Originally published April 18th, 2019 on the Innovative Software Engineering blog. Republished with permission.