Slacktime – The man and his saw

During the last months I had multiple discussions with management about the right workload for software developers. Of course it looks like having a load of 100% is optimal, and for most professions it is. In software development however this is not the best you can do:

  • Anything software related is very shortlived. What you’ve learned 2 years ago can be considered a bad practice or dead technology today. It’s one of the main treats of this profession: You’re always learning new things. But you need time to do this.
  • Software Development is a very creative process. It’s highly complicated, even for smaller projects there are thousands of possible solutions. You will not find a good solution if you do not have time to think about  alternatives. You will also lose your creativity when always working within the same rails.

Henrik Kniberg talks about pauses between Scrum Sprints in his book “Scrum and XP from the Trenches“:

In real life, you can’t always sprint. You need to rest between sprints. If you always sprint, you are in effect just jogging

The concept is quite clear, but I still had a hard time getting this appreciated by management. I recently read a story by Stephen Covey that probably would’ve helped a lot. It was about a man in the woods, working feverishly to saw down a tree:

“What are you doing?”

“Can’t you see? I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted, how long have you been at it?”

“Over 5 hours, and I’m beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break and sharpen that saw? I’m sure it will go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. I’m too busy sawing!”

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