Juggling is an illusion. … In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. … It is actually task switching.— Gary W. Keller
Have you ever tried to do your work while juggling? No? I bet you have, and you didn’t even realize it! Are you confused yet? You shouldn’t be. At work, almost everyone is juggling every day and usually every minute of every day. Watch a recent #AgileDailyDose on the topic and see what you think about it.
Multi-tasking is HORRIBLE! I have a module about multi-tasking in all my courses. People recognize it is awful, but they don’t realize how truly horrible it is until they see an easily understood example. How bad is multi-tasking for teams? I think Peter Drucker said it best:
Concentration is the key to economic results. No other principle of effectiveness is violated as constantly today as the basic principle of concentration.— Peter Drucker
Click here for an article I wrote several years ago based on his quote.
After identifying the problem, we need to solve it. In class, I often get 10-20 great ways to help with multi-tasking so let me share the top 5 with you:
- Order the work to maximize value over time. A well-structured Product Backlog helps teams deliver value more effectively. It also allows teams to realize they should not be doing work lower on the backlog until they complete work at the top.
- Say “no” more often. This is hard to do. But, hard is not the same as impossible. People often get into trouble because they are afraid to say “no” to a request. Keep in mind saying “yes” may cause you to fail at your regular work AND the new request.
- Use the Eisenhower Matrix for better time management. This is one of the most straightforward tools for recognizing time-wasting decisions.
- ScrumMaster and Product owner protect the team. This is straight from the Scrum Guide. Maybe an individual team member can’t say “no,” but certainly a ScrumMaster or Product Owner should be able to say “no” to help the team be successful
- Help leaders see the problem. Most leaders don’t recognize how horrific multi-tasking is. Expose your leadership to the issue and help them see how their help could enable more team success.
These are a small number of things you can do. I’ve seen teams increase productivity dramatically by just doing one or two of the items listed. Amazing teams relentlessly focus on the work at hand. Help your team achieve the focus necessary.
I’d love to see you in a future course. We can explore this topic and many more. Go to our Upcoming Courses page to sign up!