Monday, July 31, 2017

Learning to Manage time

Time should never be wasted
A software developer is a unique brand of employee.  The profession requires mental toughness and creativity.  The ability to create software also requires strong time management skills.  As a scrum master, you need to help your colleagues learn to manage time better.

If you work in technology, you confront a stark reality.  To keep the global economy moving there is a too much work chasing too few people.  Less than .05% of the world's population can build software and maintain the networks which run it.  Software engineers are under constant pressure to grind out code.  For those who do not understand, it feels like cramming for an exam every day of your working life.  This kind of pressure takes a mental and physical toll on the people doing the work.  Developer’s abuse alcohol, binge eat, take numerous prescription medications and engage in unhealthy behaviors to mitigate the stress.  It is an abusive cycle which leads to burnout and bad quality.

As a scrum master, we need to help others learn to manage time better.  First, create a routine for the development team and business owners.  The daily stand up should never state late, and everyone should attend.  Next developers need “quite time” to concentrate and do work.  People who are looking for favors, football pools, and making lunch plans are forbidden if they interrupt the developers.  Finally, headphones and other techniques to create a state of flow should be encouraged.
Business people divide their day in hour long chunks.  Software engineers think in thirds.  There are morning, afternoon and evening and each period is an opportunity to work and write software.  Another reason I have no meetings scheduled in the afternoon for the development team; I want the afternoons to be interruption free for the developers.

I also use it as a time management tool for product owners.  After lunch, I have a one-hour sprint refinement meeting.  We discuss stories for an hour and then adjourn for the day.  The time after sprint refinement is a perfect opportunity to write user stories.  Developers get into the routine of meetings in the morning and open afternoons of coding.  Product owners understand that the time after the sprint refinement meeting is for writing stories.

So a helpful way to help others better manage their time is to give them clear routines so they can set aside time to do the work.  It is not perfect, but it beats flailing around the office in a panic.

Until next time.