The Culture of Agile–Dedicated Team Members


In the fourth chapter of the Agile Practice Guide which focuses on implementing an agile environment, after discussion on p. 40-42 of the various roles on an agile team, there is a discussion of the various values promoted by an agile culture.   In this context, you can take “culture” to mean the various qualities of the interactions between members of that group.   So what qualities does agile recommend in order to have a successful team?

These qualities are:

  • self-organizing (working out problems as a group rather than expecting a leader to assign people work)
  • dedicated team members (striving to have team members working exclusively on a single project rather than than dividing their time among a lot of projects)
  • colocating (having a common workspace where meetings can take place to monitor progress on the project and to discuss solutions to any impediments that may come up)

In the last post, I discussed the quality of self-organizing as it applies to an agile team.  In this post, I will discuss the quality of being dedicated to a project.   Here I mean that the team members’ time is dedicated 100% to the project.   This goes against the trend of multitasking, where a person switches from project to project in the course of a day.

Why is multitasking discouraged in agile teams?   For the simple reason that it lowers productivity.   Many people do not realize by how much it reduces their productivity.  Here are some facts I found on the website Productivity Theory

 

  • Even short periods of mental blocks caused by alternating tasks costs between 20 to 40 percent of one’s productivity, according to a study at the University of Michigan’s Brian Cognition and Action Laboratory.
  • If you’re immersed in a task, such as writing a report, and an email notification distracts you, know that it can take you up to 25 minutes to become deeply absorbed again in the task, advises Dr. Julia Irwin, a senior lecturer of psychology at Macquarie University.
  • Other studies report evidence against multitasking as a desired skill. The University of London found that those who multitask during cognitive activities had an IQ drop similar to if they’d pulled an all-nighter or smoked marijuana, averaging ten points. Men who multitasked saw drop of 15 points, communicating with the average mental faculties of an eight-year-old.

(See the website at https://productivitytheory.com/multitasking-lower-iq/ for more information.)

This is why the agile ideal culture is where everyone the team is 100% allocated to one project.

Based on this information, we know now that the team needs to be focused in time to be at maximum efficiency on the project, but they also need to be focused in space.   That is the subject of the next post, on the third value mentioned at the top of this blog post, namely colocation.

 

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