Thursday, February 08, 2007

Product Backlog for One?

A couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine was having a terrible time at work, highly stressed, a mountain of work, and thinking she'd made a big mistake joining the company.
We went for a Starbucks (thank the lord for making Starbucks) and a chat...
The issues were a great big pile of work and many masters... Not uncommon I think.

I just told her a few "tricks of the trade" that had been passed onto me, and now things have "turned around 100%".

1. The biggest source of stress at work is people. We're either communicating poorly, not empathising, not understanding the complexity of tasks, got hangovers etc, etc, etc.... Once you understand this, you can filter the noise and get on with the work.

2. Have a daily action plan... I don't care who you are or what you do, but spending 10 minutes at the beginning of the day thinking about and writing down what you'll achieve by the end of the day is a MUST!
It helps maintain your motivation and focus, and maybe there'll be a sense of achievement at the end... (Although sometimes its more an indicator of what didn't get done!)

3. Every task has 2 factors! They are Urgency and Importance. Draw a 2x2 matrix, if its urgent and important, get it done! Important but you've got a couple of days, then schedule the time and keep to the schedule.

4. Communicate: With 3 or 4 senior managers screaming for results, understand 2 things:

1. It is not your responsibility to ensure that tasks are evenly distributed across a team, but IT IS YOUR responsibility to be as productive as you can, and work to the required quality levels.

2. The person who knows the most about the tasks you are doing, is you! The person at the coal-face is the expert. So... Tell people what is going on. Be as transparent as possible about your workload. [Geeks: Product Backlog for One!]

The action plan we agreed on, was to clearly articulate the current task list in priority order, to communicate it to all relevant managers, and to elicite feedback on whether any of the priorities were incorrect....

The result...

The managers are aware of a huge task list, can see the other relative priorities, argue between themselves what the relative priorities are, and see an employee working hard. [Geeks: A bit like Steering Group members arguing over a Product Backlog].

This is such a simple exercise and has been part of my daily routine since god knows when.
But I never went on a course for it. It was gleaned or given as advice from mentors or friends.

Its probably one of the most important things for anyone to learn at work!


Scott Dunn said...

As a project manageer, I have had recent success with my team using sprint backlogs, but I hadn't thought about it for all my own tasks. No coincedence, I have a mountain of tasks and no clear priorities.

Thanks for the insight - Scott

Marnie said...

Good words.