If you’ve been reading this blog for a while and have seen my comments about Agile software development, you know that I appreciate the principles of Agile. I think they reflect not just a good way to make software but also a good way to live. One of those core principles concerns sustainable development. It affirms that Agile processes promote sustainable development; the sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
Is it possible to get more work out of a team if they are pushed really hard? For a little while. But over time that team burns out or those team members move to other projects. This is not (in general) because people don’t want to work hard but because people want to work sustainably hard. This connects well with the self-organizing nature of Agile teams. Motivated individuals given the freedom to find a sustainable work pattern will produce great results over the long-term and do it in ways that they can repeat on other projects.
In my experience Agile is about the long game; Agile teams thrive and produce incredible results in firms that similarly take a long-term view of what leads to success. Some people might think you can get more work from a team by demanding that they put in longer hours but in truth it’s not that simple.