As Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups teach us, some of the best ideas come from combining to possibly disparate things. Here’s on of mine.
I recently finished Geoff Engelstein’s “Gametek: The Math and Science of Gaming“. This book is a compilation of segments he recorded for the the Dice Tower podcast. These segments explore how math and psychology (among others) affect good game design.
At the same time, I’m struggling with my scrum teams, which recently had trouble completing there last few sprints. This is not only bad for morale, but also diminishes my ability to provide good timelines to our stakeholders.
One of the segments that resonated with me was the regression to the mean. In a nutshell, this states that performance clusters in a bell curve around the median performance. Which means that any incident of being above average is most likely to be followed by comparatively worse performance and vice versa. This also means that criticizing seemingly works (because the next performance after a bad one and criticism is usually better), while praise doesn’t.
I went back to look at the size of sprint backlogs over a period of time, I saw an increase in the number of stories selected by the teams (we don’t use story points #NoEstimates). To me this looks like a situation in which the teams saw they were able to deliver commitments, so they “challenged” themselves to do more. These challenges usually work for a time (reserve energy, sacrifice of slack), but as the sprint backlogs grew, so did technical debt, WIP items, items bouncing back to the backlog. Until it came crashing down in unsuccessful sprints.