The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Hoarding Tasks

Posted by kenhoward on December 5, 2008

They finally restocked the Splenda in the break room this morning. I have an unquenchable sweet tooth, and usually put a couple packets in my tea. The bin has been empty all week, so when I saw it fully stocked this morning I was half tempted to grab several of them to keep in my desk to use the next time they run out. It dawned on me that if each of the 400 employees in this office grabbed just 20 packs, there would be 16 cases – or 8000 packets sitting unused throughout the building.

The same thing happens when we hoard work. If I grab a handful of tasks and only work on one or two at a time, I could be blocking others from pitching in to help with the ones that are just sitting there. Granted, everyone else on a project team may likely be working on some of the tasks they nabbed…but what if their time would be better spent on the pending tasks in my queue?

This gets to the heart of the reasoning behind meeting as a team daily and pulling work from the backlog that is doable that day and only that day. For tasks that multiple team members are qualified to complete, it allows the highest priority tasks to get continuously burned down. If tasks requiring specialized skills possessed by few team members start stacking up, it provides an opportunity to pull in additional help to eliminate the bottleneck. Ain’t it sweet?

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