When we started to work with Agile, we changed a lot more than we think about.The traditional way of working with water fall can more or less be described as below:
This is a little exaggerated, but it gives a picture of a way of working where we gradually build up the work load and the stress and then return to a more quiet time etc.How does the same work look when it comes to Agile? If we are true to Agile, it should look something like this:
When we work with Agile, we have a constant delivery, and we should have a very high quality when we deliver at each sprint. When we start on a new project, we often have to deliver a couple of sprints, before we have something that we can send to the customer, but we should constantly have a strong focus on the quality, both technical and UX quality.When we constantly deliver, we have the risk of increasing the work load and stress if we are not careful – I believe that it is very important that we are aware of this risk and focus on getting the most out of our teams in a human way and mitigate the risk for stress, i.e. I wrote http://agileblog.danskerne.se/#post13 about avoiding task switching, we showed that it was possible to produce 70% more work with less stress, it is important that we work smarter not necessarily more.
I have a couple of teams right now – they have a challenge due to the time of the year, i.e. there is a lot of illness ongoing, in Sweden we use to call this time VABuary instead of February (VAB is the abbreviation we use when parents stay home to take care of their sick kids); the challenge for the team is that they have had an average of 4 VAB days in each sprint, so when the team calculate the amount of hours available in the sprint, they should consider to reduce the time with 4 man-days, to avoid the extra stress that the team members feel when they have VAB (they often feel that they are jeopardizing the teams sprint goal due to that they have to take care of their sick kids).
Another way to mitigate stress is to give the team a better understanding of what the future will bring - We use to do something we call 4+4 planning – it is a way for the team to get a good view of the coming 8 sprints work, I will describe this later in another blog, but for now it is a way that the team plan 8 sprints ahead (4 with some details, and the last 4 only roughly), identifying the dependencies and risks, this also have the advantage to avoid too many annoying surprises etc., it also makes it easier for the team to identify when to create spikes to handle coming challenges – and another benefit is that if a team does not manager to finish all stories in a sprint, they will have a spill over, this will impact the coming sprints; due to the planning work, the team and the PO will find it easy to identify the impact on the coming sprints.I believe that 4+4 planning is helping the team to get a better overview and this will again help them to reduce the stress!