Something that’ s been hard to explain is why I think the “sprinklings” can’t, must not, be managed, even when we’re in a time crunch (are we ever not in a time crunch?). The thinking goes, “These sprinklings are great, but you probably need to postpone them till after we fix this critical defect. You need to concentrate on fixing this defect for now.”
See? We don’t have spare time sitting around to throw at these “sprinklings”. Why should we allow or encourage time to be spent on them? We’re so far behind already – we can’t encourage these “other” activities, can we? At least till we’re out of the hole?
Yes. We can. We must. Here’s why.
Doing Only the “Necessary”
Here we have a picture of where a developer spent one week of his time. In a 40-hour work week, he spent 94% of his time doing Official Stuff and 6% of his time doing Sprinklings (He felt a little guilty for doing the Sprinklings since no one had given him permission to do those things). He produced 114 DBPs* of work.
He fell behind on his estimates this week, though. Hmm. It looks like we could boost his productivity 6% by having him eliminate the “sprinklings” for now. Right? Wrong. Here’s the twist: the sprinklings didn’t take time away from his project – they’re what keeps him going.
The Momentum of Flexibility
Here’s my experience. Let that same developer have the flexibility to add in those extra sprinklings using his own judgment, and here’s what will happen (at least if he’s me):
In the following diagram, given freedom, the developer has now spent 56% of his time on Sprinklings and only 44% on Official Stuff. WHAT?! We can’t afford that kind of waste, can we?
But wait, look, in this same week he produced 745 DBPs of work. He was six-and-a-half times more productive, even though he only spent 44% of his time “on-task” as opposed to 94% time-on-task in the other scenario. (And he didn’t feel guilty – he knew what he was responsible for and was accountable for that).
Is This Realistic?
I admit it – I made up all these numbers out of my head. But I know that personally, when I’m discouraged and feeling that my hands are tied, it is so hard to be productive, and when I’m feeling free to do the Sprinklings along the way, I also get more done on my Official Stuff. It really does make a difference if a developer feels empowered or bound!
What do you think, developers? Does this match your experience (or is this “pie in the sky” ?)
Is this phenomenon limited to developers?