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Why are you currently so busy?

Disclaimer: Information on this story have already been altered slightly to safeguard theidentities of people.

“I’m just too busy. I barely have time and energy to breathe, aside from lead the threatmodelling exercise with my team”. This is something that among my peers saidto me by the end of an extended day when i asked him how he was doing. I believedhimhe was way too busy. He’d send slack messages and emails at ungodlyhours. He’d only attend elements of meetings (ducking out half way through witha “need to run to another one” in the chat). He’d continually be noticeably nervousat scrum-of-scrum meetings as leadership grilled him on the deadline they’d soenthusiastically thrust upon him. And his team were all clearly stressed. Twokey associates had quit already, also it looked, if you ask me at the very least, that otherswere also peeking on the fence.

What a truly terrifying proposition that’s! He and his team were toobusy to accomplish the job these were hired to accomplish, and in a manner that could becatastrophicand this is in no way an isolated incident.

The machine they were building was an upgraded for a legacy system thatexposed customer personal data. A customer’s name, age, date of birth, as wellas their gender identity, and minority status were all available in a proven way oranother during that system subjected to the general public internet. It isn’t really thesort of work where you need to skip the security fundamentals.

The absurdity to be too busy

If you ask me, this whole situation seemed absurd. Both himself and his team were toobusy to accomplish their work properly sufficient reason for any quality level that wouldn’t onlymake matters worse. The business enterprise had defined the deadline, the scope, and had(almost gleefully) ignored requests additional time and resources. His lack ofexperience in the role meant he simply accepted this fate and would insteadpressure his team to provide faster to compensate. This meantsacrificing quality engineering practices and, most disappointingly, thequality-of-life of his team. Little did he realise at that time, but…

so long as you are doing all your work very well and continuously focusing on the nextmost important things prioritised by the business enterprise, any pressure to deliverbeyond what your team is with the capacity of is objectively unreasonable.

If listed below are true:

  • Your team is following software engineering practices which have been showntime and time again to be indicative of highly performing technology teams(think CI/CD and DevOps).
  • You’ve modelled the architecture, work, and communications of the team(s) aseffectively as possible (regarding everything you can influence)
  • Your team is definitely focusing on the next most significant thing (as prioritisedby the business enterprise)

then, you can find forget about levers so that you can pull that not create a degradedquality-of-life on your own as well as your people and you also have to think carefullyabout why you’d ever wish to accomplish that.

You could sacrifice quality, but your team will need to cope with moreunplanned work (as issues arise in production), decreased lead time, increasechange failure rates, etc. You can ask the team to work over-time, but unlessthey are agreeing compared to that work and being paid handsomely because of their additionaltime (that they usually aren’t), then you can certainly quickly expect them to leave forjobs which are more sensible, satisfying, and pay better (the gaming industryis figuring that out… slowly).

In this instance, the only real reasonable ways for the business enterprise to exert influence overthe work, are to:

  1. Reduce the scope of work.
  2. Fund additional teams and/or restructure the task accordingly.
  3. Move the delivery date.

You need to only ever be busy deliberately

In a few scenarios you have to grind. Maybe you’re a start-up attempting to meet adeadline for a demo, also to secure funding you should nail this presentation.Maybe you’re an ambitious team that’s pushing for a lucrative bonus. Whateverit is, all of these have a very important factor in keeping: they’re in search of an agreedincentive.

In case you are too busy, why? What exactly are you as well as your team in search of? In the event that you aretoo busy due to pressure imposed by another person, why do they believe theyshould have the ability to ask more of you?

Are you currently too busy as the business has expectations that you should deliver by acertain date whatever the capacity of one’s team (that are delivering highquality work and always focusing on the next most significant thing as prioritisedby the business enterprise)? Then that is clearly a conversation that you should have with yourboss as well as your stakeholders. That’s likely unreasonable.

Are you currently too busy as the team is coping with engineering quality issuescaused by way of a predecessor? Then that’s another conversation you must have. Thebusiness should help release capacity so the team can address those issues,or at the minimum support the team with aggressive overtime compensationuntil it’s remedied. Failing that, maybe think about why you joined the companyin the initial place.

On a side note, “just how much of the team’s time is adopted by unplanned work?”is really a question I’ll often ask during an interview. If the solution is “we don’tknow” or “a whole lot”, I’ll then follow-up with, “If I’m successful, how muchtime can the team have focused on addressing problems with quality?”. If theanswer isn’t something such as “just as much as is essential”, thenI’m justifiably dubious

Are you currently too busy as the team is coping with engineering quality issues asa consequence of decisions created by you? That is clearly a harder conversation, nevertheless, you stillneed to possess it. Negotiate time and energy to address the product quality issues and use yourpeers. It’ll often maintain everyone’s best interest to take action.

To conclude

You as well as your team shouldn’t be so busy that you can’t do your task properly orthat you commence to hate your projects. Particularly if you’re a leader or aleader-of-leaders, you then should actually (yes you need to, I’ll die on thissword) have leisure time to believe alone, also to talk and ideate organically withpeers. Contrary to public opinion: back-to-back meetings is not a badge ofhonour, it is a red flag.

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