97 Agile Ideas - Idea Number 7
Perhaps the best way to explain the idea of slack is that it is the opposite of the idea that is pervasive in most work environments:
Everyone must be busy all the time.
The idea of slack is that organisations, especially software development organisations, are at their most effective when everyone isn't busy all the time. What slack is saying is:
Everyone shouldn't be busy all the time.
To some people this seems like the craziest idea that they've ever heard. They imagine entire teams of people lolling around doing nothing. But there are at least four reasons why slack is a good idea.
- If we're serious about limiting the work in progress, no one should be doing work unless it is servicing a demand. This is something that is explained more fully by the Theory of constraints.
- When we're not doing "work" there's probably a bunch of useful stuff that we can be doing - tidying up. In industrial settings this means literally sweeping your station and keeping it clean. In software development, it can mean literally tidying up: removing old posters from the walls. Clearing old rubbish from desks. But in can also mean tidying up file structures. Tidying up code.
- When we're not doing either work or tidying up we can think. We can take a step back from what we're doing and think about doing it differently.
- We can learn new things.