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InfoQ Homepage News Presentation: Perfection Is An Unrealistic Goal

Presentation: Perfection Is An Unrealistic Goal

In this presentation filmed during QCon SF 2007, Linda Rising tried to approach agility from a different perspective, that of how we are wired to work and sleep, which turns out to be very similar to iterations. The conclusion was that we are not to do agile, but to rather be agile.

Watch: Perfection Is An Unrealistic Goal (54 min.)

Linda introduced the audience to the discoveries related to sleep, that humans tend to have cycles of about 90 minutes of sleep. While this was not new information, what was interesting was that people have started to discover that we have cycles of work.

We think that being more productive requires doing multitasking or working more hours, Linda said. The truth is that we are more productive when we do short but intensive work then take a break and refuel the energy.

If you switch attention from a primary task to a secondary one—from a program you're writing to an email that's just come in—the time it takes to complete the program increases by an average of 25%. Imagine the impact when many people now check email 50, 75, 100 times a day.

One how to improve, Linda said:

Improvement is more realistic—not 15% by the end of the quarter—but 1% by the end of the next iteration.

Linda made the following suggestion:

  • Focus without interruption for ~90 min
  • Take a break for 15-20 min and expand your perspective, take a walk, …
  • Repeat until the end of the workday

Agile practices seem to be related to our mental activity, with how the brain is wired. Iterations, retrospectives, small increments, they seem to be the key to true productivity and success.

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