Will the Agile Holidays Create Discipline Debt?
Posted by kenhoward on December 16, 2008
Although I’m usually pretty disciplined about diet and exercise, I tend to slack off quite a bit during the holidays. Some believe that a vacation from discipline is a good thing every now and then, while others feel that “discipline debt” becomes hard to pay off. I do know that losing the 5 pounds I’ll probably gain is going to be a hassle, and completing my twice weekly bike rides is going to be more difficult when I resume.
Many projects (Agile or not) tend to go on vacation during the holidays. Not necessarily a full blown stop, but work may slow to a trickle. Many will take days off and/or participate in other non-project related activities. When a project team is shut out of office decorating, food-fests and gift exchanges, discontent can build.
When planning a sprint that will span holiday weeks, it’s important for the leadership to agree on an acceptable velocity that could be lower than previous sprints. This strategy continues to enforce the discipline of “we set a goal and work together to meet or exceed it.” The alternative is to miss an unrealistic goal and blame it on the holiday. Allowing this can open the door for all sorts of other excuses down the road.
Another strategy is to devise a holiday sprint – one focused on cleaning up outstanding housekeeping items that would be nice to get out of the way. Items selected for the holiday sprint are hand picked based on size, complexity, and lack of dependency on resources who will be gone. Although this may violate the practice of driving sequence based on priority, it does allow the discipline of the process to endure.