Adding pressure to your team is like adding salt to your food: if you add a little bit, everything will be fine, and the result will be better; if you add more, the result might be better, but your health will suffer; if you add even more, you’ve just ruined everything, and you need to start again (for foods, you can just add potatoes and fix it).
From my experience, the two main reasons a team gets stressed and pressured are lack of visibility and lack of predictability.
First of all, what is visibility? Visibility is the transparency of your team’s process. It means allowing all stakeholders to know what you are doing, how you are doing and why you are doing. It doesn’t mean giving every smallest detail of your process, but they need to have all necessary information to drive their goals according to your team’s progress.
When stakeholders don’t have the appropriate visibility, they might underestimate the team’s capacity and input pressure to see more results. On the other hand, when they have it, it is easier to agree on a sustainable development
To improve visibility on your team, you can:
- Have your kanban board always updated.
- Retrieve process metrics, so you have numbers when talking to a stakeholder.
- Build Cumulative Flow Diagrams so you can show where your team lacks efficiency and stop pressuring the wrong people.
- Avoid common errors when using metrics.
- Try to keep your work items as similar as possible regarding size and complexity.
- When the latter is not possible or when complexity changes due to discoveries during development (or blocks, as well), make sure this information is somehow visible.
Predictability is knowing when you are going to finish a demand, or what you’ll produce until a specific date. Without that information, you might find yourself always running against time, because you’ll never know if you are on the right track or not.
Fear of missing a deadline is the most famous cause of pressure in a team, but if you gather the right information throughout the process, you can negotiate:
- More time, and you’ll have the numbers to say how much time you need;
- Less scope, and you’ll have the numbers to say how many stories you can actually deliver by the deadline;
- A larger team, and you’ll have the numbers to say how many people (and their roles) you need to match the deadline. (Disclaimer: this should be your last resource. Changing the team size has different impacts, such as increasing cooperation complexity. I explain some of it on this blog post about the Law of Diminishing Returns)
In order to achieve that level of predictability, you will need a very good process in place:
- Have an efficient Story Mapping to know your backlog.
- Break the epics in similar-size stories, using complexity and uncertainty analysis.
- Start measuring the Lead Time of your team, and do it from the very beginning of the process until the end, also registering the amount of time spent in each step of the process.
- Start measuring your team’s throughput and try to have a cadence of delivery, through managing or limiting WIP.
- Build useful predictions based on the metrics you gathered using statistical analysis and Monte Carlo Simulations.
If you have visibility and predictability in your process, the pressure is easily tunable. You can adjust it in order to improve the overall and long-term performance of the team, without having to deal with hypertension in the future.
Can you say you have a predictable and visible process? Leave your comments below!