While reading Slow Business by Pierre Moniz-Barreto, I was very interested in the concept of rhythm, cadence, which I often use with my clients. On page 53 of the book, it says:

“Rhythm is everywhere and in everything: in every activity, a rhythm is established and repeated, and this is how time arises. Man is, at the same time: Creator of rhythms; Brought to submit to rhythms created by others (exogenous); Inhabited by its own (endogenous) rhythm, which needs to be recognized and valued. And he must constantly work on the harmony of these three dimensions.”

Jacques Porte

The chapter as a whole is fascinating. It alone was worth the purchase of the book for me. This passage reminded me that I frequently suggest setting up a Cadence Board for project governance of the clients I support. We try to list all the rituals, meetings, committees and annual events that revolve around a team.

cadence
Cadence Board

It is very difficult to implement, and now I better understand why. Because of our fear of not optimizing work time, we do not respect the rhythm of each individual in a group. We prefer to overload the team’s boat, not letting individuals the freedom to find their own vital rhythm.

I am thinking, among other things, of the early risers or the night owls. I am also thinking of parents, sportspeople, workaholics, dreamers, religious people, in short, the diversity that is encountered in an ecosystem. It also reminds me of the management of sleep, naps, and real restful nights in the right “timing”. For more information on this aspect and endogenous rhythms, here are resources on France Culture and France Inter (in French):

I write these words in the time of COVID19 in 2020. What I read here and there is that some people are discovering a new rhythm, without public transit. Some people practice sports in the morning, or get up later, and feel better. Of course, confinement brings other negative effects, but in terms of work, we enter our day in tune with the right tone. Personally, my morning routine is:

  • 6:00 to 7:15 am: reading books without opening my mobile phone
  • 7:15 to 7:30 am: meditation with the Headspace app
  • 7:30 to 7:45 am: three Italian lessons on the Duolingo app
  • 7:45 to 8:00 am: preparation of breakfast
  • 8:00 to 9:00 am: breakfast and special time with my wife
  • 9:00 to 9:30 am: morning touch base with colleagues from ODDES by video conference
  • 9:30 am to …: work for clients or ODDES

It’s later in the day that it gets harder if we don’t pay attention to our inner rhythm. We have other frequencies imposed by our colleagues and our bosses. Since everyone is virtually available around the clock, some report being more tired at the end of the day than usual. We worked more, we took fewer breaks. We no longer speak of a sustainable rhythm as recommended in Agility.

Reminder of one of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto:

“Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” Agile Manifesto – 2001

The unusual and unique aspect of the coronavirus crisis only accentuates the flaws of the system to the extreme. I hate management by interruptions. Currently, people contact colleagues by phone, Zoom, SMS, Slack, WhatsApp, Skype, email, Jira, without necessarily having a communication protocol in the team. We’re going to break the mental flow. Several studies and workshops demonstrate the misdeeds of multitasking and abrupt interruptions. For example:

• Henry Kniberg’s Multitasking Name Game
Flow (wikipedia)

In another life, I was one of the founders of a startup between 2000 and 2003 in Montreal. With the first employees, we had the intuition to set up time slots. Here’s roughly what it looked like:

  • 07:30 to 10:00 am: arrival according to individual’s rhythm, breakfast and equivalent of a “daily standup meeting”.
  • 10:00 to 12:00 am: focus on computer, complete silence in the office; we work on what we decided for the day by concentrating our energy.
  • 12:00 to 14:00 pm: lunch, conviviality, sport (there was a shower), nap (there were sofas), work if we want to finish earlier, but we know that there will be a little bit more noise in the office, without it being a schoolyard.
  • 2:00 to 4:00 pm: Focus session at computer again, always focused on what we want to accomplish for the day.
  • 4:00 to 5:00 pm: design meetings on a white board or peer review to complete the day’s work, we test what we want to put in common in the code.
  • 5:00 to 6:00 pm: if necessary, we make co-founders announcements on the business or organizational level, if someone absolutely has to leave, we postpone the announcement to the next morning before 10:00.
  • 6:00 to 7:00 pm: we leave, or take out beers, juices and crisps, we share videos (it was the beginning of untimely sharing of memes and other funny things), we put music on Winamp, etc. It’s the official end of the day.
  • 7:00 to 12:00 pm: for the motivated and enthusiasts, or simple singles, network games, chess games, or we go to a small bar in the Saint-Henri district.

This feedback dates back almost 20 years. We have never missed a single deadline for a client. The two times two hours of focus were powerful for achieving the objectives.

What we can get from it: if we pace the group’s work, while respecting everyone’s rhythm, energy is channeled, everyone’s health and satisfaction increases, the company remains human.

Finally, several companies are learning new practices with the chaos of containment. What could your context look like with new learning from remote work? What do you want to keep? To modify? To eliminate? I wish you a fruitful meditation!

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Alexandre Thibault

After more than fifteen years in software development, Alexandre has been an Agile Coach for several years. Originally from Quebec, he has been living in Paris for many years and he leads the Enjoy Agile and We Open Space communities thanks to Slack collaborative tools and Meetup events.

He loves practising Agility in service of his clients by balancing between a presence allowing speech, transformation and awareness and the presence of a guide who advises, suggests and invites. He likes to use Host Leadership: a stance that makes each participant the star of a co-constructed moment lived together. In other words, he loves to help others unveil the beauty of their talent and make it shine, in the collective space. His cup of tea is organizing Opens Spaces for communities or businesses (Open Space Agility).

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