Breathe

With great pandemics comes great close quarter work-from-home experiences with your spouse and my wife, who also happens to be a developer, has a work ethic second to none.

I have noticed though that she gets very intense and at times the workload and stress becomes overwhelming. It’s unfortunately the natural progression of person’s career: The more senior you are and the longer you stay on a project the more likely you are to become the go to person, the fixer, the close ally of the close to tears product owner who is getting pressure from above and looking for somebody that will just get the work done.

Chaos erupts, your structured approach to your sprint work or to do list seems about as effective as having a Kruger National Park timeshare during lockdown. Work and requests are coming in from everywhere, questions from juniors and status update requests are breaking your flow, your priorities are seemingly reorganised for you and you may or may not take it out on your husband who attempted to mansplain to you that you should just calm down…

What the well-meaning husband with his cliché advice meant to say to her was:

1. Breath. Close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, calm down and focus (don’t hyperventilate, that’s not what I said). You are only human and can only do so much during a day. You are nobody’s slave and you are not expected to pull all-nighters and work late.

2. Follow the process. Your team has an agreed way of how it operates whether it be Scrum, Kanban, Common Sense or some other set of guidelines.

Unfortunately, in a world of self-organising teams, when the heat is turned on and pressure arrives the guidelines are often pushed aside or ignored. Instead of daily stand-ups you are requested to meetings every other hour, the release schedule is relegated to the dustbin, nobody seems to be in charge to provide direction and some team members are catching feelings. This may sound farfetched but it is the sad reality for many software teams.

The best advice I ever got from a previous boss was that “you’re not here to make friends”. He also said that it doesn’t mean you should be a [expletive], but that you should feel empowered to call something out if it is wrong. So step up, remind the team of the process, use your retrospective meetings to adjust what doesn’t work and make sure everybody that needs to understand it does.

Or get a better scrum master.

Now close your eyes, take a deep breath and tackle the day and do your best.

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