Scrum Means Singular Focus

To produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time you have to have singular focus on the work at hand. Every time you pull a knowledge worker out of flow and away from their singular task it costs at least 45 minutes for them to return to the level of productivity that they left off at. Every distraction.

Every card in play on the board, is a source of distraction. This includes cards that are sitting in blocked as nothing in blocked remains quiet for long. There are follow-up questions and on-going discussions to try and clear, and then ship the card. Blocked cards are noisy.

There are cards up for pre-validation and there are always clarifying questions to be asked on those cards. More distractions.

There are the cards that are in play with the other members of the team and their questions and pull request peer reviews and in all likelihood if they aren’t working on the same card then the discussions and reviews are different than what the developer in question is working on. More distractions.

And then you have the rest of the company. Support related questions that need to be asked of the developer who created the product. Product Owner questions and epic planning. Quick meetings to review a key point. And then just the general administration questions of expense approvals, and all of the other things that it takes to run a business and support your employees.

From the list above it is pretty easy to hypothesize that there is likely at least 8 distractions or more per day. Assuming that falling out of flow takes 45 minutes to return to it and that non-flow time is slower by many factors than flow time, that means that out of an eight hour day you could be dealing with 6 very unproductive hours. OUCH.

How do you beat this? How do you give your team the ideal creative environment in which to work. A non-interrupt environment.

Make all meetings as short as possible and have them at the start or end of the day. Don’t scatter them across the day.

Never have more than 2 cards in play per team member across the active board, which includes pre-validation and blocked. If you exceed this work in process threshold have the team swarm to clear the cards. Don’t add anything else into the mix until you drop well below your threshold.

And, unless something is escalated don’t interrupt your developers. Queue cards for them in the backlog, give those cards points from your buffer, and if buffer is exceeded try everything possible to push the card out to the next sprint, and let them pick up the card when they close their current work. And ideally have developers on the same team swarm on a card. If four developers are working on the same card you eliminate four distractions. They are all having the same discussions about the same topic and building and contributing to the same outcome.