domenica 28 giugno 2009

Shared pomodoro part II

Last month I posted an article about the Shared Pomodoro, a shared timer for all the members of an Agile team. By sharing a common timer, all the team members can have pauses at the same time; so, there's nobody hanging around speaking or joking when someone else is working.

We are trying to apply this in our Agile team, without much success. The main area of debate is focused on pauses: a lot of times the developers keep working for 1-2 minutes after the ring of the timer, and then they want to take a 5 minutes break like their team partners. But in a shared timer environment, this is not possible. Shared pomodoro should also mean shared pauses.

Also, when somebody is on a difficult task at the end of a pomodoro, and wants to finish it before having a pause, it's common that he needs more focus and concentration. This is really difficult if the other developers are pausing, and talking loudly in the same room.

Another problem we had with pauses was that they sometimes extended after 5 minutes.
In our latest retrospective, a week ago, we decided to ban the usage of personal laptops during the 5-minutes break, to remove on of the most common sources of oversized pauses. However, some of the pauses lasted more anyway, because somebody was going out of the room to get a snack, smoke a cigarette, go to the toilet and so on.

Personally, I don't think that forcing all the team members to finish exactly at the same time and start over exactly at the same time could be more productive than leaving each couple free to take its own rhythm. If a couple works 28 minutes and then takes a 5 minutes pause, they're not working less than a couple doing 25-5. But I think that the couple working 28 minutes still needs a 5 minutes pause, and it wouldn't be correct to force them to a 2 minutes pause just to keep the shared pomodoro rhythm alive. I know that the strict application of the Pomodoro Technique would prohibit any work after 25 minutes, but in my experience I think this doesn't compromise the technique effectiveness too much. After all, the technique leaves space for flexibility in the pauses duration (both short and long pauses), so even applying it strictly could lead to not synchronized couples.

I've read on the Pomodoro Technique official mailing list ( that some other teams tried using a shared pomodoro without much success. At this point, I think the best solution is having a pomodoro for each couple. It has its downsides too, but IMHO they can be overcome much more easily.

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