Agile Roadblocks: Stray Team Members

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roadblockThis is the first post in a series about agile roadblocks: obstructions for implementing agile processes. First up is “Stray Team members”.

To share resources between projects seems to be a more common practice than one would expect. What’s worse is that often it is done seemingly without good cause. Some managers do not understand the impact this has on productivity, and the well being of the individual.

Description

Sometimes key resources, for example with unique competence, needs to be split across projects. Doing it routinely and without thinking it through is counterproductive, if not downright ignorant and foolish.

It is virtually impossible to divide time between projects without generating cross project noise. While working on one project you will receive e-mail, get questions and be asked to do things related to the other project.

Effects

  • Shifting tasks and focus is time consuming and decreases productivity.
  • The increased amount of stress has a negative effect on the individual’s well being.
  • Both projects lose momentum.
  • It is an annoyance for other team members when a resource they rely on is unavailable.

Detours

  • Make it more difficult to split resources across projects. Maybe approval should be required by a senior manager.
  • Minimize the effect of a resource sharing. Let people shift projects as seldom as possible, for example weekly.
  • If you are a shared resource yourself, try to do the following:
    • Minimize cross-project noise by applying mail filters and other barriers between projects.
    • Let everyone know that when you’re working on that other project, you are indeed busy working on that other project – and you are not going to answer e-mail, have time for meetings, and so on.
    • Avoid leaving open ends when switching between projects.
    • Write a note to yourself about what you were doing and the state of things, before starting to work  on another project.
  • This might very well be an organization issue and part of corporate culture. In that case it really comes down to convincing management that this really is an issue.

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