In fact, most professional jazz musicians (like classically trained musicians) still practice scales, patterns, chords, licks, etc. six or more hours per day. An overambitious classmate of mine in music school even attempted an “Uberman” polyphasic sleep pattern so that he could practice nearly 22 hours per day – though he quit after falling asleep at his piano in the middle of a performance.
Similarly, project managers must devote the necessary time to studying the subject of their projects to remain in sync with their team members and to be able to work agilely in the long run.
Whether you go by project manager, ScrumMaster, or something else – if you’re running an agile project, you need to understand the “genre” of your team’s work at a deeper level than if you were to take a “waterfall” approach (a linear approach in which you plan the entire project out at the beginning so that all task dependencies, constraints, critical paths, etc. are laid out in front of the team).
If you take an agile approach, you speedily deliver fully-functional features in iterative sprints. As fruitful as this approach may be, you could easily fall behind on tasks if you neglect to study up on the overall topic of your project.
Let’s take a hypothetical example: You’re midway through a sprint in a web development project, and your client has requested changes to an approved wireframe. However, your developer has called in sick. Now, you must figure out how to move forward with the request and make up for lost time to later complete the Sprint Backlog.
It would help to know the following facts about the web development process, which almost certainly is NOT detailed on your Scrum board.
• The front-end developer cannot begin “Implement Custom Calendar CSS” until the backend developer completes “Install “Calendar Plug-In.”
• After the “Approve Wireframes” phase is complete, no more changes can be made to the wireframe layout, or else “Implement Homepage HTML” will have to be restarted.
• The “Install CMS Platform” task will take 4 hours no matter if one or four people are working on it. However, the “Upload Page Content” task can be reduced from four days to one day by adding three extra people.
Of course, you could convene the entire team to solve the problem, but as a team leader, you’d risk disrupting the team’s rhythm.
Even with the best project structure and individual talent lined up, whenever you have a lot of unique people working together, a lot can still go wrong. In the fourth and final part of this series, we’ll examine why it’s important to Work with the Rhythm of Your Teammates.
Agile Melodies Part IV: Follow the Rhythm of Your Teammates