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.
The first section offers 12 performance-enhancing actions to make work less awful:
Have a monk-mode morning—silent and distraction free.
Go for a walking meeting—seemingly, it makes you more creative.
Celebrate headphones—they can really help you focus by shutting out the noise around you.
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’.
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.
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.
Turn off your notifications.
Go to lunch—it’s better for your mental health.
Define your norms
Have a digital sabbath—for example, don’t email afterhours
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,
How do we know how much time each team member has to work on projects?
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.