Timeboxing is an agile principle that involves allocating a fixed amount of time to each activity – and it’s a key tool we use to keep our projects on track.
Timeboxing gets us away from letting things drift and keeps our focus sharp. If our attitude is more “we’ve got a week to reach this milestone, how much can we achieve in that time?” than “this will probably take three weeks to do, but there’s no rush”, we have no choice but to be efficient and to focus on demonstrable outcomes, which brings out our creativity and problem solving abilities and forces us to remove as much complexity as we possibly can from what we’re doing. It also saves our customers money and minimizes their risk by arriving at outcomes quicker.
If we didn’t use timeboxing, there would be three potential outcomes; not completing our tasks on time, or if we did, either needing to bring in more people or sacrificing quality to get them done by the deadline (none of which would stand up to our Development on Demand model). Timeboxing requires the scope of a project or task to be reduced in order to fit into the same timescale, and what generally gets left by the wayside is the complexity of the solution. This keeps our teams focused on always prioritizing the most important thing first, and any needed enhancements can always be implemented at a later stage.
You’ll notice that complexity has already come up a couple of times, and minimizing it is a key element of why timeboxing works so well for us. The more complex a solution is, the more little problems there are that need solving. By simplifying our processes and restricting the time we spend on something in order to limit how complex we can make it, we’re able to create a solution for a problem and not just new problems to solve. This is how timeboxing keeps us on track to solve our customers’ actual problems rather than losing our grip on them by getting caught up on the solution.
We’ve found that the smaller the timeboxes we use, the better – the less time we give ourselves, the more creative and better at prioritizing we become and the more attention we’re able to pay to the original problem rather than fixing problems that come up with the solution itself. There is a trade-off to all this of course, and that is the scope of our implementation – in practice, that means that certain features or items have to be left for a later iteration. However, the plus side is that the things we have chosen to prioritize are done to a high standard and on deadline.
Did you know that timeboxing is also a useful tool for daily life and admin tasks? Have you ever used it, whether or not you realized it at the time? Fill us in on your experiences!