Time Theft

Intent: Coerce third parties into assisting you without negotiating their time

Proverbs: Time is the coin of your life, be careful lest others spend it for you

Also Known As: Waste (in the context of unplanned work)

Motivation: Agile teams draw their work from prioritized backlogs, which means that those waiting at the bottom of the queue may expect some degree of delay. Such parties may thus be incentivized to circumvent the backlog management process by approaching team members directly for assistance. Parties seeking assistance in matters that lie beyond the team’s remit can have an additional incentive, given that such activities would not be appropriate for inclusion on the team’s backlog in the first place.

Structure: A team member plans to do timeboxed work. All work completed within the timebox is inspectable and subject to review. A time thief approaches the team member during the timebox, involves them in unrelated activities, and thereby interferes with the team member’s ability to complete the work satisfactorily in the time available.

Applicability: Time theft can happen in environments where stakeholders are used to approaching team members directly, or where product ownership is weak and backlogs are not rigorously managed.

Consequences: Time theft reduces the ability of teams to deliver planned work in a Sprint or other timebox. Incremental releases will be put at risk. Inspection and adaptation of the team process may be compromised if time theft is unrecorded.

Implementation: Agile methods such as Scrum reduce the opportunities for time theft by introducing servant leadership roles such as a Scrum Master. The person fulfilling such a role must protect the team against unwarranted interference and coach its members to beware of time thieves. It should be noted that the incentive to commit time theft can only be eliminated once all parts of an organization subscribe to agile practices, including backlog management. Teams must also have a shared view of release planning so that they can manage their dependencies in a timely fashion.See Also: Timebox, Servant Leadership