The Trap We Never See – How Long Will It Take ?

Shifting from a traditions, resource optimization culture to a capacity driven one is a big deal. It means stopping answering the question, “How long will it take ?” Yes! Stopping answering! Because every time you answer you keep yourself locked into a viscous spiral that seldom (if ever?) has a positive outcome. Only you have to answer right ? Because the person asking is meaner and more powerful and a whole host of nasty things will happen if you change your answer to, ‘well, it looks like the effort is around 8 story points which is quite high and we are currently able to manage 12 story points a sprint. Do you want to prioritize this for the next sprint ?”, which for the person asking isn’t an answer at all!

Whenever I suggest this as an option the room goes quiet and the discomfort and anxiety levels shoot up. I mean, how dare I be so, well rude and brazen ? How dare you not be ? Your job is to deliver reliably and predictably, yes ? You like delivering and being competent! You like being proud of who you are and your work, yes ? Well then, how can you not change how you answer ?

If you look back over your last year, how often where you able to accurately get that number right ? How often where you able to predict the work that was unknown or the hidden dependencies or the new work that would arrive ? More likely, over the last year you haven’t managed to hit that number once and into the deadly spiral you have dropped… being beaten with the delivery stick until you and everyone else knows how useless you are!

So what if you starting answering that question differently? Instead of spending hours and anxiety minutes on finding an accurate number, start answering in terms of capacity and shift the onus on prioritizing to the business – it is after all their primary responsibility!
What if YOU are the culture!? Which would mean you make a doffer nice – you are either reinforcing the culture or changing it.
And … what if all it takes is changing how you are showing up?
We think that for things to change management needs to change, but what if all it took was something as small as refusing to answer the question, “how long will it take?”