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Does Your Team Work in Sprints?

Are you a tortoise or a hare?
How your team can take advantage of both.

Much of the traditional advice on being more effective in business assumes that being methodical is of higher value than working by energy bursts.

If you recall Aesop’s fable about the race between the tortoise and the hare. The hare is complacent and full of quick bursts of energy but trips up when he thinks he doesn’t need to work at beating the tortoise.  He falls asleep halfway through, and the tortoise gets ahead and wins the race. The tortoise is quiet and humble and methodically takes his time moving along.  In fact Aesop’s moral of the story is that “slow and steady wins the race”.

Setting aside the judgmental factor, there is a clear message here that being persistent and methodical has more virtue and is more likely to be successful than those who work in bursts.

Productive bursts of work

But what if you are not wired to be a methodical person? What if your most productive and effective work is done in bursts? The reality is that while many are productive in a steady, persistent fashion like a marathon, others are productive in a short bursts like running a sprint.

Do you plan your work? Of course you do… especially if you are the steady, persistent worker.

I once had a boss who took large projects, divided the work by the number of weeks that she had before the project deadline and did a portion of the work each week. Very methodical. Her nightmare was risking being late for a deadline.

Eye on the deadline

I, on the other hand, work best in short bursts with the adrenaline running and the urgency high. While I don’t sleep on the job like the hare, maintaining the urgency of work over a long period is simply not how I’m wired. Do I plan my work? Certainly. And I plan for short bursts. And my nightmare is the same as my boss’s – being late for a deadline.

Let’s take this blog as an example. I planned to write the first draft this week. It’s due next week on my publication schedule. This allows my partner time to read it and give me feedback, which we do for each other.  I gave myself one hour to see what I could get done. That’s my sprint. And I planned for the sprint to give myself the urgency I need to get creative.

Marathoners and sprinters: get along

So what is the application to your team’s work and productivity? All teams will have some marathon runners and some sprinters. Sometimes they don’t respect each others’ ways of approaching their work. But they can all make an important contribution to the teams’ work.  The key is for the team members to let each other know their deadlines and when they need each others’ contributions in order to be productive.

What to do next

In our Intentional Teams Framework, we recommend a number of team routines for checking in on how the team is working together. Those routines can be equally useful for marathon runners and sprinters.  What will be different will be the timing in how they each prepare to contribute to those routines.

For more information on Intentional Teams click here. Take this time to fill out the Big Tree Strategies team assessment, it will take you 2 minutes. It’ll show you where your team is starting from and give suggestions of what to do next to improve.

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