Sustainable Pace

There comes a point when you realize that if you put down the work and go home for the day, it will still be there when you come in the next morning. Though, with pressure from stakeholders and seemingly endless pressure to deliver every two weeks, if the team is not operating at a sustainable pace, they may feel overwhelmed and lose motivation.

When planning a sprint, teams often take on more work than they can complete within that dedicated time period. I’ve done it, most all of us have. Why do we do this? Is it a superman syndrome, an eagerness to please, overestimating and forgetting to leave room for uncertainty or just blatant disregard for reality? There seems to always be pressure to get more work done. Teams being challenged to do more, then being asked why they took on the work if they couldn’t finish it. Product Owners and stakeholders are disappointed when they didn’t get what they thought the team was going to deliver.

When a team finds their sustainable pace, right sizes the work to deliver within a sprint and can meet the sprint goal, they can find a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. The teams will begin to set better expectations with their customers on what they are delivering. Stakeholders can count on the team to complete what they said they could because it is realistic, not just an ambitious attempt. At the root of this concept is trust. Trust that even though stakeholders are pushing for more, when the team says this is what we think we can accomplish the stakeholders listen. Providing the full thought process around what is reasonable and including the “why” can help in providing this understanding. Trust from each other within the team and trust from those around the team sets the stage for stability.

The team needs to be comfortable speaking up and pushing back; the Scrum Master needs to help shield them and Product Owner, to listen. There needs to be a safe environment for honest feedback. We still want to have dialogue on concerns, challenges for new ideas or other considerations, but the team needs the place to be heard. Trust your experts.

It is important to have regular communication at many levels from within the team to the external stakeholders. Product Owners need to be empowered and trusted by the stakeholders to balance the priorities with the capacity of the team, keeping stakeholders informed with frequent touch points. There is always more work on the table than can be done. Stakeholders should find more satisfaction when they know they’re going to get what the team committed to. Cramming more work into a sprint does not mean that it will get done. It just makes it harder to estimate what will be done. The sprint backlog should reflect reality, not what the stakeholders want to see. Product Owners should be able to make the call, but we need to empower them to do so.