Easily Bored?

Darren Neimke posted some interesting thoughts today about the way developers lose their drive on a project, and how it’s reflected in SCRUM meetings. He thought that it might be due to the SCRUM meetings themselves. Daniel Crowley-Wilson has another idea – the developers are just bored.

Developers relish challenges and opportunities to do new things, and solve novel problems. As Daniel says, about midway through a project, there is little novelty in the problems left to be solved. At the end there is just the soul destroying finishing touches, which we all know have to be done, but which we hate doing.

I think that ‘good’ developers (Daniel’s phrase) are a particular breed. They are stimulus hungry people. They tend to quickly become immune to the initial piquancy of stimuli, entertainments or whatever interests them this week. They are not likely to remain interested in a domain or technology for long.

Evidence of this trait can be seen by the amount of staff turnover that most software vendors suffer, or the amount of technological churn that the developers tend to create. Those are the negatives – there’s also positives, like the rampant pace of forward progress. Developers can (given practice & solitude) sustain a high level of attention on a topic for long periods of time. I think this just exacerbates the problem of their easy boredom in the long run.

Because of the two characteristics of easy boredom and manic singlemindedness, Darren’s solution will probably not solve the problem either – the problem is that they require fresh inputs. Both in the job and in the SCRUM meetings. Perhaps your best bet, Darren, is to periodically change the format of the SCRUM meetings, and mix up the teams if you can.

Here’s a simple test to see whether a team member falls into this category – ask them some of the following:

  • how many hobbies have they had
  • how often do they change their desktop backgrounds
  • how frequently do they change jobs
  • how many projects do they have on the go, or up their sleeves
  • how many ideas for killer apps have they had (and not followed up)