Wednesday, August 16, 2006


So there is this 15 year old technique called the PSP where people investigated individual productivity and how it pertains to estimating. Then, that knowledge seemed to dissipate from much of the mainstream until the term ideal time was coined as part of the Agile/XP evolution. Now, we play games to help people understand that there is a difference between ideal time and real time, but we don’t tend to dwell on that time which makes up the ‘negative space’. For now, I am going to call this anti-velocity cause it sounds cool and has interesting connotations.

The first thing that happens when you name something is you begin to feel the need to examine and/or understand it. Since we always focus on velocity, we usually only strive to understand what our productivity is, not what it isn’t. So, if we look at anti-velocity, it stops being this ephemeral concept and starts to solidify into time you spend when you are not being productive – when you are not providing value to your organization. Now this itself seems harsh, because I would say email and pone calls keep individuals part of the organization and so effectively add value to the organization, though maybe not to the product or project they are currently working on.

My postulation then, is that there is a bunch of stuff people do that does not add value to their primary undertaking, but are still valuable and perhaps even necessary for their job. If this is true, it would be really good to understand what these things are so that we can think about:
  1. Is individual time within or beyond statistical variation for the team?

  2. Should they be reduced?

  3. Could they be reduced

  4. How do they affect our ability to estimate?

  5. Does Heisenberg really have practical applications (Observer Bias)?
The last question is really the most important one. If you don’t know my friend Werner, look him up. I think back to my PSP experience, and even though it was vicarious to a degree, it caused me to change behavior. I would be willing to bet that most people, when they actually see what their negative space connotes, will change their behaviors.


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