Don't forget to check out Part 1 of Slowing Down to Speed Up: Insights from AgileDC Conference!
A New Agile Paradigm
The agile methodology is anchored in principles that emphasize sustainable development. It advocates for a work pace that is consistent and maintainable for sponsors, developers, and users. This principle underscores the importance of sustaining a work pace that is both productive and feasible, in contrast to attempting to accomplish too much in too little time. And yet, while many of us agilists understand that, and most of the world has adopted some sort of agility work, we are still in this busyness mess. What gives and how do we change it?
While the concept may seem counterintuitive, there is a compelling argument for slowing down. Rushing through tasks can lead to diminished quality and the introduction of avoidable errors and inefficiencies. It's an idea encapsulated by the paradoxical saying "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast." Slowing down is how we can make room in our lives, but why is this something we need to be mindful of in the first place?
Time Management Is NOT the Same as Bandwidth
The rush to complete tasks often results from a feeling of scarcity, or the perceived lack of time. In an era of instant gratification, many of us have developed an illusion of infinite time, but the reality is that time is very finite. The choices we make regarding how we use our time have a profound impact on our lives. Time management and bandwidth are not equivalent. While valuable time management principles exist and are needed for productivity, contemporary life and technology have made setting boundaries and effective prioritization increasingly challenging. We've become conditioned to say "Yes" to almost everything, leading to an often frantic existence.
This is something I think we were conditioned to do. Here’s an example for all of us who have been in the public school system. When we were in school, our teacher would assign homework. Did you ever have the opportunity or feel empowered to ask why this homework was necessary? How was it going to help you achieve your goals? No, I don’t think so. Instead, most of us took the work and decided to get it done to the best of our abilities while also juggling after-school activities and home responsibilities. It was your duty to figure out how to get it all done and how to get it done well. So now, in the workplace, we are switching our mindset to share that we only have so much time in the day to get work done. We cannot continue to squish the work we have. Instead, we must say NO to more so that we can say YES to the work that matters most for the desired outcomes.
Embracing White Space
In our schedules, which are often filled with back-to-back meetings and tasks, there is little room for reflection, creativity, and innovation. White space, or idle time, provides an opportunity to connect the dots, think holistically, and generate innovative solutions. For innovation to flourish, we need to reclaim white space on our calendars. After all, agility is about delivering value to the customer as quickly as possible. It is often tied to being innovative and creative. But how are we going to have the space to experiment and innovate if we are in back-to-back meetings, of which most are poorly planned and wasteful, and the other 50% of our time is spent fighting fires? We won’t. We need to prioritize our time.
Say No to Say Yes: The Power of Prioritization
One of the most impactful lessons from this session is the importance of saying "No." In the quest to be a valuable team player, many individuals take on more than they can handle, diluting the value of their contributions. Learning to say "No" helps to prioritize and make space for what genuinely matters. As discussed in the session, this was all a good reminder of why we need more space and need to slow down. But how do we accomplish this? It starts with you!
Yes, you are in control. It has to start somewhere and why not start with you? Do you feel empowered to pause and think about what is being asked of you? Take that pause. Notice what comes up. Think about how this request is supporting the organization’s objectives. Also, what else is on your plate? You need to have real honest discussions with your teams and leaders to make it transparent what you are working on and where a new request fits in ranked order priority. Here are some of the strategies we briefly discussed to help make space and slow down:
- Ask “What does this do for the company goals?”
- Ask and understand the priorities
- Schedule no meeting days
- Turn off Slack/Email/Teams notifications for focus time
- Empower employees to have honest conversations about capacity and quality
- Take your breaks - Schedule them!
- Use a tool like Clockwise to manage focus time and track meeting trends
- Put an end to wasteful meetings - Be the leader of a good meeting culture
- Schedule breaks after back-to-back meetings - Go for a walk to help make neural connections
- Cluster distracting tasks like email/slack notifications into a “meeting” time
- Focus on one big task at a time, for a block of time
Taking Agile Principles Back to Work
The AgileDC Conference was a great reminder that embracing the wisdom of slowing down can pave the way to sustainable development. It's not about being lazy or doing less; it's about being intentional with our time and making strategic choices that increase productivity, innovation, and overall well-being. Slowing down may seem counterintuitive, but it's a principle that can expedite our journey to agile success.
Remember that you can do anything, but you can't do everything. Make a conscious choice to slow down, set priorities, and say no to make space for what truly matters.
Are you interested in learning more about implementing agile methodology in your organization? Our team of experts are here to help you achieve your goals and create a more effective and efficient approach to project management. Contact us today to get started!
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