Tag Archives: core hours

Scrum Works Best When …

Scrum and all Agile methods work best when:

  1. Team members are co-located
  2. Team members are together through the entire work day
  3. Information is radiated visually
  4. Every member of the team is 100% on that team with no responsibilities outside the team
  5. All work is done in pairs of team members
  6. The team has a large suite of automated unit tests
  7. The team practices continuous integration of work
  8. The team is skilled in refactoring and has a large, maintained regression test suite

The first 2 items (team members are co-located and team members are together through the entire work day) address the importance of face-to-face communication. This is because all human language is imprecise. We make up for the imprecision through body-language, tone of voice, and emphasis on some words over others.

We lose all of those advantages when we use written communication, and therefore we lose meaning.

With telephone, we lose body language and have the added problem of possible noise on the line or words that are dropped in transmission, and therefore we lose meaning.

Video conferencing would appear to solve all these problems, but it is only as good as the clarity of the connection and how much the camera is able to see. Even with video conferencing, we lose the meaning of what others are saying.

Item 3 (information is radiated visually) is important because putting team information in an online tool inhibits the transparent sharing of information. If I have to open some software and browse to find the information I want, there is a barrier to me getting the information. If the information is posted on a wall in my team work area, then that information is instantly available to anyone in the area. Including me and my team mates.

Item 4 (Every member of the team is 100% on that team with no responsibilities outside the team) addresses the importance of reducing interruption. Study after study has proven conclusively that human beings do not multitask well. I don’t care what people choose to believe, the proof is overwhelming and it is true for every generation. Young people don’t multitask any better than mature adults.

Study after study has show that switching between tasks takes time, and the more complex the tasks are, the longer it takes to unload one from your brain and load the second one in. When a knowledge worker (writers, analysts, designers, coders, architects of all kinds) is working on two projects, approximately 20% of that person’s available work time is lost in switching between tasks. This is bad enough, but the problem only grows worse as more projects are added.

Item 5 (all work is done in pairs of team members) gives at least two benefits. First, by pairing the work, you always have more than one person who knows what that work is and who can explain it to others. Second, if someone has to be out of work for a few hours, then their partner can quickly catch them up-to-speed on what has happened on the project during that time. This greatly reduces the time to switch between work and the outside world. Pairing is also an effective way to quickly get a new team member up-to-speed.

Finally, items 6-8 (the team has a large suite of automated unit tests, the team practices continuous integration of work, the team is skilled in refactoring and has a large, maintained regression test suite) address the uncertainty of software. We will almost never get it completely right the first time, and so we need mechanisms to help us make continuous small improvement (kaizen), trying and testing until the software is what it needs to be. We are not looking for perfection, but quality and value. We get the quality and value quickly by writing small amounts of code, then testing it and getting it right before writing the next small amount of code.

This stuff works when you do it. If you want to pick and choose just the things you like, you will never get the full benefit of Scrum and Agile practices.


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Working the Same Hours

For a Scrum team to work together effectively, they need to be at work at the same time.


At the same time.

The team will have to come to agreement on those hours, but that means, for example, that the whole team is there from 8am-5pm with a one hour lunch break from noon-1.

I know some of you are unhappy about that. But really, how can you expect to work directly with someone if that someone is not there.

Remember a Scrum team is not a collection of individuals who happen to be working on the same project. A Scrum team is a group of people working literally together on something. Like an old-fashioned barn raising where everyone is lifting the roof of the barn up at the same time. You won’t get the roof raised if one person shows up from 9-10, then two more come from 10-noon, then another 3 come from 1-4.  You need the whole crew there at the same time to lift together.

Now some teams will set “core hours”, say from 10-3, when everyone is required to be there and meetings can be scheduled (and why we are talking about meetings for a Scrum team that are together all the time is a mystery to me).

What this really means is that this team has introduced inefficiency and the probability of work blockages the other 4 working hours of the day.  So this team has cut their effective work time in half.  And what do they gain?

Well, this person has to drop their kids at school, and that one has to pick them up after school, and the train schedule means someone else will be late, and ….

What you are saying is that it is more important to optimize the individual.

But Scrum and Agile teach that you get the greatest gains and benefits by optimizing the team.  Oh, and a lot of other studies show the same thing. Optimizing the individual is sub-optimal.

You have to all work the same hours. People in most other industries make it work, when they really have no choice of their work schedule.  A Scrum Team can do it as well.

It’s that important.


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