Exhaustion is Not a Status Symbol
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brene Brown shares her 10 Guideposts of Wholehearted Living. Number 7 on that list is “Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth”. This resonates strongly with the 8th agile principle about sustainable pace.
In the world of Scrum software development, it is all too easy to get caught up in pumping out user stories and increasing velocity sprint after sprint, but what does that type of hamster wheel mentality do to us physically, mentally, and spiritually? For that matter, what impact does it have on our products? Are we building fast things, or the right things? Are we making time to dream up big, new ideas and/or to build a cohesive team around our mission?
Work-life balance is a buzzword that we throw around, but how often does the culture of an organization support exactly the opposite? Hero culture is rewarded, and our output viewed as a measure of our worth on performance reviews. We set out to transform the world of work with agile and with Scrum, yet I’ve heard the Scrum sprint cycle described as a “hamster wheel”, an endless conveyor belt of backlog and sprint reviews that the developers cannot escape. This is not congruent with what we read in the agile values and principles.
I’m interested in inspiring a discussion about the pitfalls of a competitive exhausted culture, and how we in the Scrum community, even with the best of intentions, could be “accidentally responsible” for continuing to spin the hamster wheel. Hero culture has been discussed before, but have we addressed our own potential culpability in creating it? We need to make sure that the principles and practices of Scrum are being used for good, not for evil. It all starts with a conversation.
In this discussion, we will explore the dangers of exhaustion as a status symbol -- for our organizational culture, our teams, and ourselves. We will discuss the specific risks of inadvertently creating a competitive exhausted culture within an agile transformation, and the ways in which we can leverage the agile values and principles in order to mitigate those risks. Lastly, we will take a look inward to assess our own attitudes and views about work life balance.
Outline/Structure of the Talk
- Introduction - Why is this important?
- Examine the 8th agile principle- sustainable pace
- Exhaustion as a status symbol - what does it mean?
- What is sustainable pace? (hint: it’s different for everyone)
- Measure their current team’s view on sustainable pace
- Measure their own view on sustainable pace
- Explore how Scrum practices, used properly, enable sustainable pace
- Explore how easily Scrum practices can enable the opposite
- Discuss red flags to spot - hamster wheel tendencies
- Discuss how to avoid exhaustion as a status symbol
- Working agreements
- Estimation as a method to empower the team
- Sprints as a heartbeat, not a constant death march
- Avoiding hero culture
- Speaking up as team members and leaders
Attendees will leave this session having done the following:
- Examined the 8th agile principle
- Measured their current team’s view on sustainable pace
- Measured their own view on sustainable pace
- Explored how Scrum practices, used properly, enable sustainable pace
- Explored how easily Scrum practices can enable the opposite
- Learned red flags to spot
- Learned an antidote to exhaustion as a status symbol
ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, Leaders, HR, Development Teams
Prerequisites for Attendees
Familiar with the 12 agile principles, specifically the 8th principle: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
Understand the basic Scrum rhythms
This talk was shared at AgileIndy 2018, AgileCincy 2018, and Agile & Beyond 2018.
Additionally, I was privileged to share other topics at the following conferences:
- Agile2018 San Diego 2018
- Global Scrum Gathering Minneapolis 2018
- Regional Scrum Gathering Toronto 2018
- Business Agility Conference NYC 2018
- Mile High Agile Denver 2017
- Global Scrum Gathering San Diego 2017
- Meetups: CAMUG & Agile Denver 2017
schedule Submitted 4 years ago
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