Three simple rules for greatly increased team productivity: the Two Second Rule, the Fifteen Minute Rule and the the Two Week Rule.

The Two Second Rule is basically “don’t interrupt others” (even when you know what they are going to say, what they are saying is wrong, they don’t have all the facts, or you suddenly have a great idea that can’t wait). When someone else speaks, listen carefully to what they are saying and when they stop talking wait two seconds before speaking. It is so hard to do. But the benefits are huge.

A few moments of silence in the discussion communicates that the other team member is valued. A lack of patience and kindness can set off a flood of emotions that reduces the team’s ability to quickly solve problems together.

The Fifteen Minute Rule limits the amount of time a programmer can focus on a problem before showing the problem to another programmer and asking for help. The description and discussion of the problem are limited to another fifteen minutes, to keep both programmers from getting stuck in the same tar pit.

Generally, one of these outcomes occurs.

  • The stuck programmer thinks of a solution or something else to try simply by verbally expressing the problem to another person.
  • An obvious solution is found by the other programmer.
  • A solution isn’t found, but a quick code review and knowledge transfer occurs, which may benefit the team in the future.
  • The stuck programmer returns to their desk with the satisfaction that the solution isn’t obvious and reconsiders the problem from a new perspective.

The Two Week Rule is that all work is scheduled to fit into a two week timebox. Instead of sliding dates, the timebox is fixed. There will be a code delivery in two weeks. The only question is what features and fixes will be in that timebox. High priority and low hanging stuff is done first and feature creeping is push into later timeboxes, unless they are epic in value and trivial in effort.

These three rules are great for not only increasing productivity but also team moral. Time to become unstuck and to move forward.