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Scrumodoro: Methods For Personal Effectiveness Within Scrum

by Christopher Goldsbury on Jun 04, 2012 |

A recent and continuing series of posts by Magnus Nord at Devoted Developer shows further hybridization and experimentation of agile techniques. Magnus details his use of Pomodoro, a personal productivity technique in which work is completed in 25 minute iterations, called pomodoros. Each post in the series is devoted to Magnus' exploration of one of the Pomodoro Technique's objectives used in conjunction with Scrum. While the series is not complete, we outline some of the key take-aways from the first five posts below.

Find Out How Much Effort an Activity Requires

 
In this first post, Magnus shows how the Pomodoro Technique used within scrum gives structure and discipline to his own activities.  Each pomodoro is equal in length, just like a sprint.  He knows where his time goes, and how much of it he uses on any one activity, which in turn allows him to more acurately contribute to estimating sessions with the team as well as daily standups. He shows how this naturally fits within the scrum framework and helps to make his own personal productivity stronger. 

Cut Down On Interuptions
 
Internal and external interruptions can be the bane of concetration, and Magnu's second post shows how Pomodoro helps him reduce internal interuptions, those caused by himself and his own thoughts, and external interuptions, those caused by others. A simple Pomodoro technique is employed to reduce the external interuptions: Inform, Negotiage, and Call.  Using this minimizes the impact of external interuptions by:
 
1. Tell the person causing the interruption you’re busy at the moment.
2. Agree on a time when you can get back to them (next five minute break, or the next long break).
3. Make sure you get back to them on the time agreed.
 
In effect Magnus becomes his own scrum master removing blockers to his own personal progress.
 
Estimate The Effort For Activiies
 
Magnu's third post shows how using Pomodoros gives him a more accurate idea of how much time things take by continuously monitoring and tracking where his time goes.  A suggestion is even made that estimating in pomodoros might be a good replacement for story points, ideal hours, or ideal days. 
 
Make the Pomodoro More Effective
 
Refactoring is considered a good practice within development circles, and Magnus uses his fourth post to show how Pomodoro provides a structured way for him to apply his refactoring.  During the last few minutes of each Pomodoro he dedicates time to cleaning up his code. Every third or fourth Pomodoro he dedicates the entire session to refactoring.  
 
Setup a Timetable
 
This post shows the similarities between sprints and pomodoros.  It discusses the importance of focusing on what was completed, respecting the timetable by not overcommitting within any pomodoro, and personally reflecting on what went right/wrong after each pomodoro.  It is shown how pomodoro reinforces the values and acitivities of scrum at an individual work level.
 
Team Contribution or Individual Performance
 
There's often a debate within software development communities on whether individual performance or total team performance is more important when building software.  Surely both matter, but Magnus's use of pomodoro within scrum show a blended pragmatic approach to providing effective individual performance within an agile team.  Further, his willingness to experiment and blend individual performance techniques with Scrum show the general trend of experimentaiton and evolution that is occuring within the agile community.  Opening it up to our readers, and the community; what techniques have you seen blended with an agile approach like scrum that work well?
 

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What about stay concentrated 4 hours in a row? by Mario Fusco

I am sick tired of all this stupid pomodoro thing. Is it so difficult to stay focused on what you're doing for more than 25 minutes? I can't believe it.

Re: What about stay concentrated 4 hours in a row? by hans ma

Staying concentrated? Just like that? Jeez, that doesn't sound like something you could extensively blog and twitter about, travel to interesting places to hold two-day seminars, and write books.

We need a Scrumodoro manifesto, right now. And certification. I would particularly like to combine this with "Craftsmanship". So what about a Certified Scrumodoro Craftsman, followed be the Certified Master Scrumodoro Craftsman?

what techniques have you seen blended with an agile approach like scrum by hans ma

Thanks for asking. I've noticed that toilet breaks blend in excellently with Scrum. Team members were encouraged by me as the Scrum Master to come up with their own schedule of relieving their bladders, and it has worked most excellently!

Concentration by Mr. Logic

In some environments, concentration is a BIG problem. All software development environments are not made equal. Some are just right, yet others can be quite damaging to performance. Managers will never know either unless they ask, yet demand an honest answer. People that do NOT do the actual development can get away with this. Executives, Managers, and Business Analyst to name a few. They are often in too many pointless meetings. If they were to cut out all the pointless meetings, just imagine how much work they could actually get done.

The same is true for developers in harsh environments that are not conducive for proper concentration. If you cut out all the pointless interruptions/distractions, just imagine how much work they could actually get done. I have always believed that developers should be sectioned off from other members. If they cannot have their own office, dedicate an entire floor or building to them. They need quiet areas.

When a surgeon (developer) operates (performs) on a patient (product), there are only medical professionals (developers) in the room that can help the surgeon win (successfully deliver). There is a good reason why non-medical professionals are not allowed in the operating room. The surgeon (developer) needs proper concentration.

I haven't read the Pomodoro material yet, but wanted to chime in on the truth about concentration issues some environments.

Mr. Logic,

Stupid IT Project Managers
stupid-it-project-managers.blogspot.com/

There's no half story: drop it if you interrupt it. by Arialdo Martini

Pomodoro and sprints & stories are very different. You don't drop a story if you interrupt if for a while, do you?

Scrum is about communicating with people. Pomodoro Technique® establishes you should procrastinate communications.

Come on, be serious: get rid of this ridiculous Pomodoro Technique®.

Not sure if I would be able to use my thoughts by Vikram Ravindhran

Its more like manufacturing the code, I don't think if developer would get enough time to process his thoughts/ideas. Don't like Pomodoro at all until I have to work fixing bugs or only have to do minor code changes for maintenance purpose.

Re: What about stay concentrated 4 hours in a row? by Assaf Stone

@Mario - I think you might be the victim of poor presentation of what Pomodoro offers. Perhaps you have a much higher than average ability to focus on just one thing and not be affected by internal disruptions, something that I personally do not, but that is just one kind of interruption that Pomodoro solves.

The second kind of interruption is external. Every colleague that comes by your office with "just one question", every email, text message, Facebook notification, and phone call are interruptions. Can you shut those out with no effort? Many work environments do not allow for that.

With the Pomodoro technique you can balance focusing on tasks in short bursts (something that is highly synergetic with other practices such as TDD) with reacting at an acceptable rate to the rest of the world (support issues, your boss, pit-stops at the kitchen).

I'd suggest you try it - just for one day. You might be surprised at how difficult - and how valuable - it actually is.

P.S. Belittling something that you do not understand is generally not a best practice in a forum dedicated towards learning new things.

Assaf.

Re: There's no half story: drop it if you interrupt it. by Assaf Stone

Actually Pomodoro and sprints and stories are exactly the same in both the aspects you mentioned. You do drop a story if the end of the sprint interrupts it - Only complete stories are "accepted" by the PO at the end of the sprint.

Also, both Scrum and Pomodoro are (among other things) about increasing productivity by regulating communication: Scrum prescribes daily meetings (a 10-15 minute "heartbeat"), sprint planning sessions, demos and retrospectives to make sure that a minimum important set of messages are communicated, rather than non-existent or having too many disruptive meetings.

Pomodoro prescribes a cadence to all communications to minimize their disruptive nature.

Incidentally, in this, Pomodoro is also like Lean and Kanban, as they both use cadences to improve the flow of value.

Assaf

Re: Not sure if I would be able to use my thoughts by Assaf Stone

Try to introduce TDD - it works great with the short cadence of Pomodoro.

Assaf

Re: What about stay concentrated 4 hours in a row? by Mario Fusco

@Assaf read my answers here www.pomodorotime.org/time-management/pomodoro-t... and what I think about the pomodoro here www.infoq.com/news/2010/02/pomodoro-critique

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