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Box jumps and Agility

Box jumps and Agility

By Annalinde Singh  – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

Last weekend I got myself a nasty cut and a supermassive black shin because I lost focus while doing box jumps at boot camp on a rather dreary wintry morning. It got me thinking about the wider consequences of losing concentration. Working in Agile teams, we occasionally lose focus on our current sprint, and it inevitably affects our motivation and the team’s whole sphere of work.

Often we find ourselves trying to prepare for the future before we have even put the full stop on the sentence of our current sprint; certainly, before we could know enough about what is coming our way.

We know we are going to need a certain data table at a future date, so we may as well just create it now, right? We are busy building this code, and it is related to a similar functionality that is probably going to be needed down the line. Should we not just jump in there and get ahead of the pack? We need to make sure this is future-fit!

Come on – is there honestly serious harm in being prepared?

The one real issue is that we lose focus on what we are busy with (and, according to the Product Owner, should be busy with), and we misallocate energy and time that should be spent working towards the goal of a valuable, working increment of a shippable product.

The result should be a smile on the customer’s face and some money in the bank.

A certain school of thought promotes the idea of multi-tasking. This concept is, to most, a failure, and some would say it does not even exist. When you consciously try to do more than one thing at a time, what really happens is that you start many things, and often, finish nothing.

In our work environment, context switching can lead to a confused customer viewing something that does not align to their request or expectation. The Product Owner has their neck on the chopping block. The team’s usual bubble of keen energy is deflated by missing the sprint goal and building something that is less-than-functional.

As Jessica Harris mentions in this article on Trello’s blog, context switching is becoming more and more recognised to be one of the biggest evils in our lives.

What is it about human nature that makes us want to prepare so much for times to come? I remember spending hours putting together a study timetable when I was younger, only for it to go straight out the window because I would always spend way more time on the subjects I naturally enjoyed. Since entering the business world, I’ve grown to love the principle of building a ‘slice of cake’ at a time – planning for a short time, experimenting, figuring things out as a team, constantly communicating, documenting as we go, testing as we go, delivering a small piece of end-to-end functionality, and most importantly, always learning as we go!


Any team is faced with two major choices:

  • Trust the process, stick to our prioritised work – what we’re busy with – and deliver something valuable and functional as often as possible, or
  • Second-guess the principles we say that we believe in, and follow; second-guess the Product Owner (he/she remains the single wringable neck), and do development work focused on any time period other than the current.

The latter, to me, sounds like willingly kicking a hard surface repeatedly, and this past weekend proved that it is a truly unpleasant experience, even when accidental. You can put a pretty plaster over broken skin, but it simply hides the wound… who knows what is festering beneath?