Project Management

The Battle for Sustainable Pace

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guide—Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

I’m using this month’s “sustainability” theme to talk about the sustainable pace concept from agile approaches. One of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto is to encourage working at a sustainable pace. The principles states “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.”

Given the time-to-market emphasis and use of terms like “sprints,” the idea of a sustainable pace seems odd to some people. However, it is really about taking a smart, long-term view to optimize overall value delivered. Yes, we could try to go as fast as possible and deliver as much as we can, but this would burn out the team.

People cannot productively work overtime for long periods without becoming demoralized, unwell or making mistakes. We may think we are immune to these frailties that impact other people, but laboratory testing including soldiers, pilots and doctors shows that mental fatigue impairs judgement, increases error rates and decreases performance.

So, even if an organization does not care about its employees (and let’s hope it does), it would be smarter to encourage reasonable work hours. You get more out of people in the long run—and especially in knowledge work projects where it is not as simple as swapping out a tired horse …


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