Overtime hurts – Your company and Yourself

Welcome dear reader,

Have you done overtime in your life? Did you have that one project that meant a lot to you, and you really wanted to get it done?
Are you currently working 10+ hours?

Currently I’m working on a project and I know that every hour I don’t invest in the project could potentially mean failure. Failure would directly affect me since I personally gave my word to finish this project because I believe it can be done. It would mean dishonour, loosing trust and potentially severe consequences for people that trust me to get things done.

All good reasons to do overtime, no?

Overclocked and Overworked
Overclocked and Overworked © by Bryan S on flickr

“Working longer hours creates more work than it accomplishes”

This is a direct quote from Jeff Sutherlands newest book and it is completely true.
Thinking about why I’m doing overwork right now brought me to the conclusion that currently I’m not only damaging my personal life by working too much, but also the company I’m working for.
Let’s analyse a bit what I’m currently doing so you can understand this better.
For the current project I’m working as a Product Owner. And we’re closing in on the release date of the project. We’re supposed to work agile and we’re in the “stabilising and bug-fixing” phase.
Those of you who understand what “working agile” means already spotted anti-patterns in what I just wrote.
Right now my main duties are:
  • Writing Tickets to resolve Bugs and retesting them
  • Testing
  • Defining Test-Cases for manual testers
  • Organising test runs and all pre-requisites
  • Taking care of a sub-project that is critical for the projects success

Don’t do work that you shouldn’t do

Now as a PO I shouldn’t do a lot of what I’m currently doing.
If you know what a Product Owner is supposed to do you probably understand what I mean.
But why does this hurt me or the company?
The company is hurt because you’re compensating for a lack that actually the company should address. In my case the company should focus on getting better in testing to be able to deliver “done” functionality after each sprint. This includes a lot of work since the only way how to do that is automated testing and this requires a lot of learning on the team side.
But as long as this is covered by people that take this important role on them by doing it manually the company will not do anything. And the company should really do something here.
But much more important hurting yourself is much worse.
If you work too long you feel that personally through one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Feeling tired and exhausted
  • Not having time for your loved ones
  • Learning, Sports and other activities are things you always want to do “next week”
So if I work longer than 8 hours I’ll hurt myself because I cannot focus on other things that are important like Sports to give me more energy or learning  that will make me better in my job.

Be professional and make it transparent

If you want to be professional in your job this is something that you have to highlight.
This can start by saying NO, when you’re asked to do something that you shouldn’t do.
Now please don’t confuse that with narrow roles and the typical “this is not my job” statement. In a cross-functional team it’s the whole teams responsibility to get the job done.

But there are limits to this and you most probably know best where those limits are.

So whenever the limits are broken for yourself think about what you can do. Simply saying NO might not always be an option. But there are other possibilities:

  • Highlighting the broken system (in my case showing how the quality is not sufficient)
  • Talking with a sponsor, mentor or stakeholder
  • Giving suggestions on how a possible improvement could look like

Improvement – Everyone is responsible

Teamwork – by Ice Birdy on flickr

It should be the responsibility of each and every person in a company to improve. If you don’t get what I mean by that read this great blog post by @WoodyZuill to understand it better.

Whatever doesn’t work in your company shouldn’t be taken for granted. And everyone should be able and asked for improvement contributions.
This way if you find some dysfunctions like the one described above your feedback will not be treated as criticism or negative but rather welcomed and appreciated.
When you bring forward your idea of improvement start with that. Any leader who takes the well-being of the company serious should be more than willing to set some learning system up that will boost long-term improvements.
While reading this you could have thought about that one thing in your work that you have done for weeks or even months but always thought that it is wrong.
But there was never anyone to do it other than you.

Think about the long-term success of your company and answer yourself the question: should it continue like that or are there better alternatives?
If you have one or more alternatives find the right person to talk to and start improving TODAY.
There is no reason to wait any time longer. You’ve waited long enough.

I hope this gave some of you a little bit of inspiration to start improving.
I’d be glad to hear about your improvements in the comments or on twitter @MrSnow76.

Thx for reading,
Sven Schnee

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