TITLE: Middles AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 09, 2018 4:02 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In an old blog post promoting his book on timing, Daniel Pink writes:
... Connie Gersick's research has shown that group projects rarely progress in a steady, linear way. Instead, at the beginning of a project, groups do very little. Then at a certain moment, they experience a sudden burst of activity and finally get going. When is that moment? The temporal midpoint. Give a team 34 days, they get started in earnest on day 17. Give a team 11 days, they get really get going on day 6. In addition, there’s other research showing that being behind at the midpoint--in NBA games and in experimental settings--can boost performance in the second half.
So we need to recognize midpoints and try to use them as a spark rather than a slump.
I wonder if this research suggests that we should favor shorter projects over longer ones. If most of us start going full force only at the middle of our projects, perhaps we should make the middle of our projects come sooner. I'll admit that I have a fondness for short over long: short iterations over long iterations in software development, quarters over semesters in educational settings, short books (especially non-fiction) over long books. Shorter cycles seem to lead to higher productivity, because I spend more time working and less time ramping up and winding down. That seems to be true for my students and faculty colleagues, too. In the paragraph that follows the quoted passage, Pink points inadvertently to another feature of short projects that I appreciate: more frequent beginnings and endings. He talks about the poignancy of endings, which adds meaning to the experience. On the other end of the cycle are beginnings, which create a sense of newness and energy. I always look forward to the beginning of a new semester or a new project for the energy it brings me. Agile software developers know that, on top of these reasons, short projects offer another potent advantage: more opportunities to take stock of what we have learned and feed that learning back into what we do. -----