Show me your calendar and I can tell you if you are doing real development or calendar-driven development.
In Denmark, where I live and work, we are pretty much out of the lockdowns and restraints imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who were unfortunate enough to catch the COVID-19 virus are still suffering from long-term effects like breathing problems and heart complications.
I’ve also observed that some of these long-term effects are influencing daily work for many team members. They are suffering from what I call Calendar Driven Development. This is a severe situation that will heavily influence productivity, motivation, and could potentially increase employee churn.
Luckily, there are many ways to cure Calendar Driven Development and return to high performance.
What is Calendar Driven Development?
We’ve all seen the rise of Calendar Driven Development to some extent:
- Our calendars are filled up with wall-to-wall meetings leaving little or no time for preparation.
- Entering a meeting not knowing why we are there and what we are supposed to get out of it due to our own lack of preparation.
- The day-to-day number of context changes has been measured up to 16-20 times a day just by having an endless stream of 30 minutes meetings for a whole workday.
- Exiting each meeting followed by a new meeting request for a later continuation since the discussions did not conclude in the short period set aside to discuss.
The consequence of Calendar Driven Development is that everyday work is following the pace of the calendar and progress can only be made when team members are available for the next session of discussions. Planning work in the team becomes ridiculously hard since it’s nearly impossible to predict your own capacity as you can expect to be booked for a new meeting shortly after the planning has ended.
The flow of the team is broken.
Having Calendar Driven Development could cause a serious decrease in motivation among team members who are driven by producing business value. Lack of motivation causes a drop in productivity and could potentially end up in having team members resigning with a desperate hope that their next assignment is not doing Calendar Driven Development.
How to Cure Calendar Driven Development
However, there are many ways to cure the disease of Calendar Driven Development and they’re actually pretty straightforward. There is nothing new—they derive from some of the 20+ years old agile principles:
1. Face-to-Face Conversation
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is a face-to-face conversation. One could argue that a meeting is a conveyor of face-to-face conversation, however, what I normally see is not a conversation, but more communication. One team member needs input from another and books a meeting to receive the communication. There is no room for conversation—just one-way communication.
Make room for conversation. Make people talk to one another.
2. Team-managed Work Flow
Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. Following Calendar Driven Development, people tend to end in an unsustainable pace where everything is dictated by the calendar. The team needs to take back control of the work to re-enable flow. If the team is using Scrum you could with benefit remove all other meetings than the Scrum events.
Make room for conversation. Make people talk.
3. Build Projects Around Motivated Individuals
Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. The team is clearly lacking an environment where they can be in control of flow. As a Scrum Master or manager, you should be the impediment warrior supporting an environment where the team is in control. You could help teams declining meetings, discuss with stakeholders and customers how the team needs to interact, and generally back the decisions of the team.
Make room for conversation. Make people talk.
COVID-19 and the long-term effects take time to recover from, the same applies to Calendar Driven Development. It’s a matter of recreating the culture and mentality in your team to a sane state where they can be efficient and effective.
Co-owner of BuildingBetterSoftware
Agile Coach and Trainer
Rasmus Kaae is working world wide as an agile coach, mentor, presenter, facilitator and trainer. As a certified Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner and Scrum Professional, Rasmus is dedicated to bring Scrum and agility into organisations by having a full stack end-to-end and top-to-bottom approach. He is a member of the national board of Round Table Denmark, and primary driver of an internal agile community in Danske Bank.
You can find more of his writing at agilerasmus.com.