16 - December - 2021

Staying Agile During the Holiday Season

In the U.S., we’re coming up on the big holiday season. It starts in the 4th week of November, with Thanksgiving taking a 2-day chunk minimum out of your team’s work-week, and ends with the quiet week between December 25th and January 2nd, when half your team is out celebrating the holidays. Outside the United States, Chinese New Year slows a lot of manufacturing and shipping dramatically, Indian holiday seasons, and Jewish holidays in September all similarly affect team capacity.

These slow downs aren’t unpredictable, though, and in an Agile environment, if you can predict something in advance, that’s a huge advantage to you and to your team. Unfortunately, the U.S. holiday season also coincides with flu season, so you might have a mix of predictable lower capacity combined with unpredictable causes of team capacity dips.

Some companies completely shut-down during holiday seasons. Depending on the company’s finances, this might mean giving paid time off to cover the shut-down, or (as some companies do) issuing a temporary furlough where the employees can file for unemployment. Furloughs like this can backfire as it reduces employees’ financial security in a time that should be spent in celebration.

Agile practitioners can approach the holidays with a few creative ideas that boost employee morale and keep the company moving:

  • Switch to a flow-based agile methodology, like kanban or scrum-ban, until the holiday season is over. This can give teams enough flexibility to account for both lower and unpredictable team capacity, while still keeping them focused on a product goal.
  • Schedule a non-productive sprint, where the “sprint” time is spent doing professional development and other non-development work. This is convenient if your holiday season coincides with your sprint schedule.
  • Run a “hackathon” style sprint. In this, team members pursue their own development goals, individually or with the team. The goals isn’t necessarily to have a working product increment, but to explore feature development or creative solutions that don’t normally fit into the product goal. In many cases, these “hackathons” result in new features and enhancements that users love once they’re properly refined and aligned with the Definition of Done and released.

If you’re an Agile practitioner– be it a product owner, leader, scrum master, or team member– consider implementing one of these holiday hacks for your teams. If you need help getting your team to switch to a flow-based agile method, contact us to bring on an Agile coach for the holidays!

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