Agile Principle 8

Into my 72 hour period of no sleep and lots of work, we are going to continue the Agile series with a dig into Agile Principle 8.

Agile Principle 8

Principle 8: Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Ok, first I see the irony that I am going on a unsustainable pace right now and I am going to talk about maintaining a sustainable pace. Ain’t the universe funny.

Let’s unpack what we are after in this principle.

First, we want to not burn out anyone on the team. You want to destroy value producing software, break the people who are making it. I am going on this whirl wind pace because some people are on holiday and I am filling in for them. So I am dealing with several things that I normally would not do.

Don’t Do What I Did

I remember the year of hell called 2014. It technically started in mid December of 2013. I worked everyday, including Christmas from December 11 to April 17. Once I stopped working 16-18 hours a day after the first week of January, I worked 10-12 hours per day 6 days a week and did 8 hours on Sunday. That was the light load.

I would have worked longer but one day, specifically April 18, there was nothing left. There was literally no more when I stopped. I completed 99% of what I had to do and just ran out of gas. I pushed out that last percent over a full week.

Then I did not complete anything else of any merit for the rest of the year. I did stuff. Troubleshooting the system. making minor tweaks, keeping everything moving but I did nothing substantial for the rest of the year.

I lucked into an easy consulting contract in Q1 and Q2 of 2015 that brought in the money for the year. But I did nothing interesting in 2015. It was not till the end of 2015 that I actually started doing something interesting again.

I calculated that did a full year’s work in 19 weeks. Even after going back to a 40 hours week, my average weekly hours at the end of December was still over 70 hours per week.

As I recall, I basically did just shy of 1850 hours in a single quarter plus a few weeks. That is a freaking whole work year and my work was not up to my standards, I messed up more than I would ever do normally, I got the job done. It was ugly, stressful and barely acceptable but I got it done. Everyone who needed me to execute got what they needed but it wrecked me emotionally and physically. The stress caused me to pack on the weight. Over 100 lbs, that I have only partially dropped. Burnout is no joke. Going to the edge of what you can physically and emotionally do isn’t either. It is not something a long weekend will fix. I took several months off in 2015 after my contract finished. I just sat recovered.

It was crazy profitable. I never made money like I did then and I knew what I was stepping into when I started and had a plan for my recovery. Don’t literally kill yourself for money unless it is a bunch of it.

What does that have to do with Agile?

It is a cautionary tale that there is a max level of push a group of people can do. Most people could not do what I did in 2014. It takes a drive that allows you to dig deep to get over that finish line. All my sane friends would have found a new job. I had offers. But I was going to finish it damn it because the money was so very good.

You can only go as fast as your least resilient member. Someone will have a time constraint and often it is the customer. They are making their money and they don’t have time to carry their part of a project. Besides you want to cause a customer to crap themselves, show them the cost of me for a 40 hour week. Most small business don’t actually have professionals on their payroll. If they do, it is the owner. Professional cost lots of money so it is a good thing for most projects that it is the customer that cannot handle the pace.

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