Agile vs productivity habits

We have encountered numerous positive changes in our day-to-day office life after adopting agile. The project process is more effective, the team members have clear tasks and responsibilities and we are able to adapt and react almost instantly. However, while agile practices do bring the team productivity up, the question remains whether they do propose any changes to our personal productivity habits and the productivity curve of the office week?

To answer this question, we should first define our understanding of the productivity curve. To put it simply, it is a curve that defines our productivity during the work week. The curve tends to vary for each specific business field, however the common tendency is that the productivity is lowest at the beginning and the end of the work week, while the peak is reached somewhere in between.

This is explained by the simple truth that at the beginning of the week we are still thinking about our past weekend and it takes us a while to get back on the horse. While towards the end of the week we start thinking about the coming weekend and usually by Friday afternoon are putting work off thinking we will not be able to complete it before the weekend anyway.

When talking about our productivity, the time of day should not be forgotten as well — we can climb mountains in the morning, but sometimes are not able to lift a finger after lunch and only get our grove back towards the end of the day. This is all due to our biological rhythms and little can be done to avoid it. With agile, however, we are looking for constant and continuous productivity and rarely have any room to modify deadlines or to put off tasks until next week. Therefore we end up with two conflicting ideas on our hands — the power of the human nature vs the seek of ever increasing results. Which on will actually come out on top — let’s see!

To investigate this, we have decided to look into our own Eylean Board users and investigate how active they are during the workweek. Below you can see a productivity graph of agile teams with data collected over the last weeks.

As expected, there are clear productivity dumps over the weekends, however, they are not the only variations here. Noticeable differences can be seen during the work week as well, which may be surprising for some.

The productivity curve of agile teams varies a little bit from the traditional curve as Mondays in general have quite high productivity metrics. This is because a lot of agile teams here use Mondays to review and to plan tasks for the next week. Instead of having the team slowly move back into the work pace, they use this time and set the tone for the whole week. The rest of the week, however, does not differ much from the traditional productivity curve — the peak productivity is reached in the middle of the week, while Friday often sees a sharp decline.

Looking at the metrics regarding the productivity during the day we again see that despite the continuous approach of agile, the productivity is highest in the morning hours and suffers a slump after lunch. From this, it becomes quite clear that agile cannot really affect how productive we are.

While this may be shocking to some and others may start looking for ways to go around this, we would like to propose a thought that this is only natural and little can be done to change it. Instead, we should look into this curve, understand the reasons behind it and adapt accordingly. In fact, most of us are already doing that intuitively — setting up daily standups in the morning, planning work at the beginning of the week and leaving enough room for our team members to be able to complete an easier task after lunch.

Agile is not a weapon to intimidate the productivity out of your team, it is barely a tool to assist them in doing the absolute best they can do and setting them up for success. Productivity increase is nothing more than an after product of agile we get to enjoy.

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