Kevin Cain, director at a technology venture capitalist firm, makes a good case for Scrum development techniques as an alternative to an otherwise quite funny approach to productivity -- having somebody give you a slap every time you drift off from your initial project mission.
He recounts the story of VC colleague Maneesh Sethi, who recognized he was wasting too much of his day chatting and surfing the internet. Sethi went on Craigslist and hired someone to slap him in the face every time he procrastinated. "The results? With a slapper watching over him, Maneesh was productive 98% of the time, up dramatically from the 38% productivity he previously registered."
The good news is that most people don't need to hire a professional slapper to improve their productivity, Cain reports: Agile -- or more specifically, Scrum techniques can accomplish the same results, with less pain. Scrum encourages a continuous flow of deliverables to end users or customers in short iterations, with direct involvement of those users or customers in planning, elaboration and acceptance. Here's how it helps Cain:
1) Scrum assures that others are aware of what needs to be accomplished in a given day. "It just provides some peer pressure to make sure you at least try."
2) Scrum provides for others to bounce ideas off of. "The regular meetings we have as part of Scrum are a great venue for this, since you know you’re not disturbing someone and everyone can be part of the conversation."
3) Scrum helps relaxation. Being more efficient enables one to kick back and relax at the end of the day without feeling guilty about not accomplishing more. "It makes for more relaxed working hours and a more fulfilling end to the workday."
4) Having another pair of eyes to go over content improves the quality of work. "Getting feedback from your colleagues during a project (instead of just after it) allows you to ensure you’re on the right path and makes the eventual output that much better."
5) Scrum provides intrinsic satisfaction: "The incentive to be more efficient in Scrum doesn’t come from an external threat or reward, but from an internal desire to make progress against your goals and contribute to the team. That makes it a much more sustainable firm policy than, say, slapping someone every time they visit Facebook (also, I’m pretty sure that’s against this country’s labor laws)."
(Photo: US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)