Time box: Safety zone for Creativity, Cleanliness, and Sausage Stuffing

Without freedom, one’s creativity cannot bloom. ~ Dalai Lama

On Creativity

In his 2005 A Survey of Organizational Creativity, Wayne Morris of New Zealand found that 2 of the top 3 Factors that facilitate or enhance organizational creativity are Time and Space/resources to pursue ideas.  imageGoogle stands as a preeminent topic brought up by software teams with it’s 20% time for engineers to follow passions.

Creativity, a necessary ingredient to innovation, demands space.  Space to experiment, learn, fail, and refine.  Space in time, environment, and pressure.


On Cleanliness

The mythic Rewrite.  It also comes in the form of a Refactoring Sprint.

Software Developers would hand over their first born in exchange for a Rewrite.  Customers hear: So we have to complete two more sprints before I can deliver new value that I can sell to pay these clowns’ salaries?

Keeping our code and our designs clean and in good state requires time and effort.  This isn’t in question.  Not even to your customers.  It most definitely needs to happen more often than once a year or however often it’s happening today.  Let’s face it, that big ball of mud didn’t happen last sprint.  It’s been simmering for some time now.

We must be delivering clean, refactored software in the midst of delivering new value.  We need to do this for many reasons, but here’s one you really need to accept or go learn the hard way: cash flow is a big deal.


On Sausage

I must credit Ken Schwaber for this analogy (and vision!).

There is a great unrest growing against the velocity metric.  In the minds and realities of many, velocity has been corrupt.  We are using this tool for calibration to fill a sprint to capacity and beyond.  To take a team to it’s limit.  To optimize!

We are stuffing the sausage.

I say ‘we’ and you’re reading ‘they’.  Admit it, I don’t blame you.  I do it to.  But we as team members are as much to blame.  When asked what we can accomplish we take that word ‘can’ to its limit in the hopes that we are pleasing others.  It’s pretty natural I’d say.

Unfortunately, in stuffing our sprints like sausages we squeeze (sorry) out the space for creativity and cleanliness that should otherwise be built into our ongoing process.  We must make space for the continuous improvement and balance our sense of urgency with our sense of exploration.


On Reality

Industries are not changed on Innovation Day or in Executive Offsite Meetings.  They are changed through discipline and a framework for learning applied to frequent delivery.

So choose a period of time which provides you an appropriate opportunity to inspect and react.  Build creative, clean, done features in that time.  Now use that experience to forecast which new parts of that product you can complete should you repeat that cycle in the future.

File:Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant, 1872.jpg



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