The Joy of Work

One of my favourite podcasts is Eat Sleep Work Repeat hosted by Bruce Daisley, the European Vice-President for Twitter. I was delighted when I heard earlier this year that he was publishing a book, The Joy of Work (2019).

The subtitle of this his first book promises a lot: “30 ways to fix your work culture and fall in love with your job again”. The book is arranged into three sections which he claims together create happier work environments:

  • Recharge—ways we can help recharge our own batteries.
  • Sync—suggestions about how to encourage trust.
  • Buzz—ideas, based on research, that can help teams reach a state of ‘buzz’.

Each chapter relatively short, easy to read and is packed with great, up-to-date research and ends with a few practical ideas about how you could implement that idea.

Recharge

The first section offers 12 performance-enhancing actions to make work less awful:

  1. Have a monk-mode morning—silent and distraction free.
  2. Go for a walking meeting—seemingly, it makes you more creative.
  3. Celebrate headphones—they can really help you focus by shutting out the noise around you.
  4. Eliminate hurry sickness—don’t see gaps in your schedule as moments when you are not working, celebrate space—sometimes you have your best idea when you are doing ‘nothing’.
  5. Shorten your work week—stop celebrating overwork, go home on time, break your day into small chunks. Burnout and exhaustion are no good for your creativity.
  6. Overthrow the evil mill owner who lives inside you—don’t be a tyrant, don’t jokingly say ‘half day?’ when someone comes in at 10:00. Don’t give people a hard time about their hours especially when work has some flexibility.
  7. Turn off your notifications.
  8. Go to lunch—it’s better for your mental health.
  9. Define your norms
  10. Have a digital sabbath—for example, don’t email afterhours
  11. Get a good night’s sleep
  12. Focus on one thing at a time

The challenges of resource management in our Agile team

Over the last year, as we’ve been formally trying to work in a more agile way, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a project manager is resource management. In other words,

  1. How do we know how much time each team member has to work on projects?
  2. When we’re planning the next sprint, how do we track how much work has been assigned to a team member, so that they have neither too little nor too much work.

Agile planning in theory

In theory, Agile planning should be pretty straight forward.

Imagine we have a team of five developers, each with 6 hours available for work each day. That gives us 30 hours per day, and assuming 9 days of project work (with one full day set aside for retrospective and planning) then within each two weeks sprint we should be able to dedicate 270 hours to development work.

During the planning session then, with the business having prioritised the work to be done next, it’s up to the development team to estimate the size of tasks and stack these up in a backlog. We know that we should aim for around 270 hours of work (or perhaps a little less, maybe 265 hours, to create some slack — breathing room to make provision for some tasks running on a bit longer than anticipated).

Moving through the sprint, developers pull work to themselves and gradually over the fortnight all 265 hours of work is completed.

Within a few sprints the team begins to establish a velocity—the average amount of work that can be comfortably completed. This really helps to plan further ahead as the team becomes both more predictable and reliable.

Continue reading The challenges of resource management in our Agile team

My new office with the digital communications team

My desk, PC with three monitors. Shelves in an alcove on the right.
I must have been the naughty one to be sitting in the corner, facing the wall.

Today marked the end of my second week back to work post-virus. Last week I worked three mornings, this week five—although I stayed until 16:30 yesterday to help move my things to our new office in the former Bute medical building. It’s been a very positive week, although I am now really rather tired.

Since May we’ve been asking to be co-located with the three members of the digital communications team with whom we’ve been working closely to change how we manage and develop digital and web assets at St Andrews, such as the University website.

Today we moved into a recently refurbished and spacious office on the third floor of the Bute.

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It’s a really exciting time to be working in the area of web and digital development; it’s an exciting time to be doing that at the University of St Andrews. It’s an enormous task that we have ahead of us, but I’m so looking forward to it.

Hopefully when I return on Monday (for my first full day since 25 July) I will have a network and phone connection and the fun can begin…