Iteration Management – Post #8 – Consistency

This post is a part of a series of posts about iteration management. If you want to start from the beginning, go here.

If your team has a lot of periods of crunch time and if overtime happens on a somewhat regular basis, it becomes really difficult to know what is normal anymore. Far too often, the crunch time ends up becoming the norm because your good, diligent, dedicated workers will want to step up to the challenge and hit a date without complaining. But since management sees that you hit the date and things seem to go well with minimal complaining, they might think that it’s no problem if the same thing happens again. So what do you do now, plan for people to work 40 hour weeks or 50 hour weeks? Or maybe the number of hours worked changes from week to week. This is a good way to kill morale, and it also makes it really difficult to collect any meaningful data that you can use to help with planning.

Another problem happens when people on your team work more than 40 hours but only report 40 hours on their timesheet. Now you’re collecting data that is incorrect, which is going to make you underestimate how much you can get done. I realize that most full time employees get paid a salary and don’t get paid extra for hours worked above 40, but people need to be honest about how much their working.

This is a tricky situation, because some people like working extra hours. They want to do it because it’s fun. But there are other people that feel like they can’t do a good enough job by just working normal hours. You’re going to have people that feel inadequate, but I like to find those people and let them know that they don’t need to sacrifice themselves like that just to fit in. If people feel stressed or that they can’t keep up, they’re not going to feel good about their work, they’ll be tempted to cut corners, and they won’t do their best work. I don’t want people to come to work and take it easy and not work hard, but I want their experience at work to be a positive thing in their life.

All of this makes data analysis really hard. What do you do with the person who works 60 hours a week for fun? I don’t want to tell them that they can’t do that (which I can’t really do), but it puts you in a tricky spot when they decide that they can’t work 60 hour weeks anymore and you’ve gotten used to (and planned for) that happening. Or maybe someone is frequently underestimating tickets to make themselves not look bad, but then working extra hours to get it done?

The answer is… I don’t know. Every situation is different, you’re just going to have to figure it out. I’m just pointing out some issues that can come up.

What we can do is try and create a positive work environment. We should try to create a culture of empowerment instead of a culture dominated by top-down command-and-control management. We should try to encourage and reaffirm the people on our team and help them avoid the impostor syndrome. We should try to improve the lives of the people on the team, which will also affect their performance at work in a positive way.

Read the next post in this series, Personal iteration planning.