Ever walk into the kitchen of a technology company? Chances are you’ll find a mind boggling supply of candy, snacks, treats and a variety of caffeinated drinks. One could just pass this off as the bad eating habits of pale geeks who go home after work and live in their parent’s basements, but I’m beginning to believe something deeper is at work here.
New research leads me to believe that we may be collectively suffering from ego depletion.
Ego depletion is the idea that self-control or willpower is an exhaustible resource that can be used up. Interestingly enough, sugar (or glucose) intake helps us prolong our ability to make decision after decision throughout the day.
Initially it sounds far fetched, until you think about all of the decisions you make throughout a work day and how they correlate with your sugar intake.
Consider the number of decisions you had to make in order to get to work this morning. Now once you’ve sat down and booted up your machine, imagine how many decisions you make before you start to even code. After you’ve started coding (or writing your tests if practicing TDD) imagine how many decisions you continue make in the span of just 1 minute.
If you do the math you begin to realize that you make a staggering amount of decisions throughout the course of just one work day. Many of these decisions are under pressure with serious implications.
In addition to ego depletion, research has found that these decisions can be broken down into pre-decision and post-decision processes.
A prolonged period of pre-decision is not ideal for a team that thrives on quick feedback loops.
I believe we can use this new found research to help our teams be in situations where they can make the best decision possible.
Daily Standups - Urge teams to have the daily standup in the morning if possible. It is our daily plan and we need our team focused as we make decisions on what we are about to do.
Retrospectives - Bring candy or snacks into the retrospective. Team members are more likely to forget their manners when suffering from ego depletion. It isn’t just people, it even happens with man’s best friend too.
Iteration Demos - Schedule these early and bring muffins, donuts or pastries along with some form of juice. If the Product Owner is accepting the work, he or she needs to have the mental fuel to make the tough decisions.
Feedback Loops - How long does it take to compile and run tests locally? How long does it take to deploy a build to test or production? How long does it take to get an answer from the business on feature question? All of these affect pre-decision time spans and deplete willpower.
Some of these suggestions may sound like common sense, but I believe if we can align our techniques with these findings that the result will be a team that is in an environment where they can repeatedly make good decisions.