The power of running like clockwork

Photo by BricksetIn a lot of the work I do people value their flexibility to respond—hence the word “agile”. But being agile relies a lot on things that are fixed and regular—in other words, things that people can rely on. And most important of all is a regular schedule. This includes the length of an iteration or cycle, what the meet-up points are throughout the cycle, and everything that feeds into that, such as when people need to prepare or having things prepared by, plus what they have to prepare.

An important part of all this is that we have mechanisms within our operation to deal with any issues that arise—new requirements, oversight and assurance demands, and so on. In other words, not just a reliable calendar of events, but one that is appropriate for the needs of all our stakeholders. And if we can develop this then there are many advantages to a schedule that runs like clockwork.

For one thing it reduces our cognitive load and errors—we don’t have to worry about when to do X, because we know the schedule and the expectations. Therefore confusion and miscommunication is reduced.

It helps stakeholders outside our team mesh with us; if they can rely on regular touchpoints then they are less likely to (inadvertently) distract us by trying to schedule and reschedule meetings. They can rely on us, and our regularity.

It also allows us to optimise—by having a well-oiled machine we can understand our processes better and try small improvements. Small, separate, changes to a known process will result in clarity about what difference each one makes.

Most of this comes down to making the best use of our time. It might seem odd that flexibility relies on strict regularity, but it is the difference between being controlled and being in control of irregularly-shaped work.