Deadline killed the agile star

The effects of deadlines on work ethics and how to get your team back on track

Make people aware of the underlying psychological processes to help them get back on track after falling into old habits.

Deadlines and other forms of work pressure negatively influence the way people are working. Even though this is quite a common fact, it still happens. Organisations keep setting (unrealistic) deadlines and employees let themselves being influenced by it. But why? And how can we undo this?

Working agile is about maintaining a healthy, continuously improving flow of delivering software. Some teams are in the process of becoming agile, other teams already have a great flow going on, yet ever changing and improving aspects the team finds valuable. Our team fell in the latter category. The team was autonomous, motivated and happy, and the stakeholders were satisfied with the features that were being delivered. All was well.

But then something changed… A major change in targets, one final deadline was set. Even though this target was still doable for our team, I noticed a change in our way of working … and in the quality of our product. The deadline killed our agile star.

How did we allow such a setback within our team’s work ethics? I consulted a specialist in the area of human behavior and mental performance. He taught me that deadlines subconsciously cause fear. And our instinctive reaction to fear, is fight, flight or freeze, which usually results in stagnation and falling into old habits. Habits we all thought we had outgrown by continuously improving.

In this talk, I share my views on how the unique perspective of a tester can make a team become aware of what is happening on a mental level, help them overcome their subconscious behavior, and get back into the right flow.


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