Skip to main content

The Holiday Stratagem

What do the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays do to your teams tempo and cadence?

For most US teams this holiday period from mid November to after the first of January is hectic and disruptive in various ways.  This calls for a Holiday Stratagem.  A trick to allow the team to have some semblance of continuity and flow during these times.
The Sontaran Stratagem - Doctor Who

To discuss this stratagem let's first define some terms:

Tempo - the rate of workdays to calendar days
Cadence - the beat of the sprint events to fall upon the same calendar day of the week
Sprint duration -  in work days (in this example I'll use 10 work days)
Sprint length - the length of calendar days between two sprints (14 days for the example 2 week sprint)

What do you value more?  The ability to deliver more work in the short term -or- the ability to predict long term the capability of the team to deliver that work?  Or perhaps something else, like teaching a new team the trade-offs in making decisions and helping them to learn from reflecting upon these decisions.

This is one area that I find lots of variability in agile coaches answers when the team just wants an answer to the question - what do we do?  I love this variability.  I enjoy the ensuing debate over the better answer and delving into the reasons why for a specific case.  And this is definitely one domain that is not simple - nor is there a best practice.  So reader beware - there will be no one best practice, no correct way - here is the land of trade-offs.  And it is an interesting land well balanced between the trade-offs such that the replications of the decision are virtually uninteresting.  I think that makes a great play space for the team to practice decision making.

Let's use an example and then discuss the options.  Team Alpha-Dog is on a 2 week sprint schedule with the beginning on Monday (Sprint Planning) and the end of sprint activities (Demo & Retro) on the Friday of the following week.  Along comes the 2013 holiday season with the company's holiday plan for Thanksgiving days off on Nov. 28th & 29th.  In the sprint planning on Monday, Nov 25th the team has a decision.  Do they keep the sprint duration constant (at 10 working days) and there by break cadence - or - do they break tempo and keep the sprint length consistent at 14 days?


Option A - Illustrated
Option A:  Sprint duration constant at 10 working days.  Sprint begins Nov 25th and runs to Demo on Tuesday, Dec 10th.  The cadence of the team and stakeholders will change.

Option B:  Sprint cadence constant at 14 calendar days.  Sprint begins Nov 25th and runs to Demo on Friday, Dec 6th.  The duration changes to 8 working days - impacting planning and subsequent velocity calculations.

Option C: Sprint duration and cadence are broken.  Sprint begins Nov 25th and runs to Demo on Friday, Dec 13th.  A sprint duration of 13 work days to try to reestablish the Monday/Friday cadence - just on an alternate rhythm.

I'm sure someone will offer another option, I'm just going to stop with these three and quickly rule out option C as the worst of all.  It's always nice to have an option everyone can agree upon - even if it is the worst - at least we all agree.

One may want to do a bit of mid-term planning before making the decision.  What will happen with the Christmas and New Year's holiday if we continue with the decision principles we use now; does this leave us in a cadence we wish for the coming year?



If the team desires to switch it's cadence or duration - there is no better time than now.  Have you met the 13+2 Sprint Cadence?



If the team chooses option A then planning is easy, the average velocity calculation is consistent (no need for an asterisks in the log book); however the team ends up changing the sprint cadence and this may wreck havoc on stakeholder's schedules.  The impact to this decision typically ripples outside the team more than inside the team.  It's a good test of the servant leadership paradigm at your company.  Do the leaders server the team or does the team serve the leaders?

If the team chooses option B then planning is a touch harder involving fractional math (I've found this surprisingly difficult for some,  capacity this unique sprint is 8/10 times the typical sprints velocity).  This sprint's velocity may be thrown out of the set for future statistical calculations.  Stakeholder's may be happy because they don't have to rearrange their busy calendars.  But the externality impact to the team may be hidden, it is the compression of the sprint that will throw them off, they will be off tempo.

Projecting these decision into the mid-range future and through to the middle of January may help you make a decision on principles.  But don't expect these principles to hold true when it comes to the following year's calendars.  These are not true principles but just situational guide lines.  It is a good time to practice team consensus making tools like the fist of five.

Have a happy holiday!




Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Software Development terms applied to Home Construction

Let's Invert the typically wrong headed view of Software Development project management as a construction project.  We can map it the other way just to see if it works... to have some fun, to explore the meaning of phrases we toss around quite frequently.


Normally Project Management terms come from a construction domain.  We are going to apply the lexicon of modern software to the construction of a home.  We will follow the construction project and meet some of the people doing the work.

This is a very small (8 homes from $600,000 skyward) program in my 30-40 year old neighborhood.

About 6 months ago I saw the programs landing page go up.  It gives casual observers and some of the stakeholders a general idea of the intent of the program.  And most importantly who to contact for additional information if you happen to be interested in their products.

The Refuge program has 8 product projects and has them running independently.  Yet much of their DevOps infrastructure has already b…

Innovation in the Automobile Industry

In the 1900s the automobile industry was the most important and innovation industry in the USA.  But one could question if this was good for our society in the long run.  And one could question if they actually innovated.

In the early 1900s there were few automobiles, very little infrastructure created to support the industry.  For example the road system was still designed for horse drawn wagons and the wagon wheel (remember a steal rim and wooden compression spoke wheel).  The future US Highways, or the 1950s Interstate Highway System at the cost of $425 billion were decades and many innovations away. There was no gas service station, there were however horse stables, farriers, and blacksmiths in each town along the roads.  There was no real "road map", there was no road naming system, like was created in 1926 - the United States Numbered Highway System.

The industry employees millions of people, and was a large factor in the economy of the USA.  It created or was created b…

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.

Introduction

Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…

Timeline of Social Networks -or- the Long Haul

I was listening to KERA's Think and they mentioned the concept of social networks.  It got me think...

But the book Long Haul, is its own interesting story - A Million Miles and Counting - A Trucker's Tale.

“The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road”
Did you know 41 million people move in the US a year?  Having moved a few times in my life, sometime with the Bed-Bugger's help, this book is a great insight into that life.
Author: Finn Murphy's CB handle - "U-Turn" The radio interview noted the concept of social networks in the 21st century.  What is a highway - but a manifestation of a social network - a trail across the land.

a timeline using the Knight Lab Timeline JS tool kit.

See Also:

Social Media - Tracking its Exponential Growth video
Social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
List of social networking websites - Wikipedia

The World's 21 Most Important Social Media Sites and Apps in 2015



The Growth of Social Media - infog…

One Dark and Stormy during a Hurricane

I'm from the Carolina's where legend has it that our family commonly just hunkered down in the home on the coast and waterways than to head for inland shelter. Now that's from the old school days of barely improved (read paved) roads. They counted a storms severity by how high on the back porch steps (about 15 - top to ground) the water reached.  I don't recommend this action in todays world of long range forecast and transportation options.

I do recommend a drink or two in a hotel bar, far far away.

This is the week that Harvey came ashore in Texas.  I live on a hill in the little old town of Grapevine outside Dallas and Fort Worth.  And thank you all for letting me know that a storm is coming... I didn't get out and walk Malibu before the rain hit, so I grabbed a hat and we went anyway.  Much nicer walk with the drizzle, I'd say.

I'll raise a glass to you - if you were not smart enough to do the responsible thing, at the last responsible moment.

I do re…