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Part-time agile means shaping work well too

Make it easy to pick up, and do work when time is available.

When I was an exchange student in (West) Germany at a high school in 1979-1980, lots of the women in class had knitting projects that they’d do between classes, and sometimes at the start of class. This was an ‘integrated common school’, and very informal. We called teachers by their first names, a practice I’ve always encouraged with my students too. The knitting projects were easy to pick up, and continue, and then stop when class started. Once you knew the basics, you didn’t have to think too much except when you transitioned parts.

When students are working part-time on software engineering products in student teams, they should aim to design their work to have similar characteristics so that they can be picked up and stopped with minimal fuss or hassle. Maybe it takes some effort to set up, but to ‘add functionality y’ should be straightforward. The student should be able to work on a small section and do their work, and then be able to stop without leaving too much ‘hanging’ and broken until they come back to finish the work.

Small stories for the win

Creating small stories should be a natural part of slicing stories so that they are small and only last a day or two at most. Small tasks flow from small stories. It is easier to pick up and put down if they’re not completed in one sitting.

My day contains different chunks of time. When I’m in the office, then I have about 90-120 minutes before my first teaching, or meetings start. Then I might have one or two 30-60 minute windows when I can do things later before I go home. I used to also have an hour after dinner each evening, but I gave that up in exchange for doing more in the morning. I find that mornings work better for me. If possible, I try to keep one day a week clear of meetings, so that I can tackle larger, or longer tasks.

With these different time boxes I can organise my tasks according to how they fit into the relevant box of time. It also depends upon my mood. Some days it’s hard to settle, so I’ll do lots of little tasks.

Using this with your students

Guide your students in how to slice stories, and then point out the benefits of small tasks. When we finish a task we get a dopamine hit. More small tasks means more dopamine hits 🙂

This post is part of a project pulling together my materials and ideas about Teaching Team Collaboration: the Human-Side of Software Development for software development to students.

If you’d like to be notified of future posts, then please sign up for more using the adjacent form. When you sign up, then I’ll send you a free copy of the collaboration rules as a PDF from the book. You can also follow me on LinkedIn

The ideas above are from my book 101+ Ideas to Improve Team Collaboration, which covers all of these little things that students can do to improve their collaboration.

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