For some reason, I’m remembering a guy in Florida who pushed his team to commit to more and more. I asked him why after the meeting. He said “People need stretch goals.”
Now a little pressure helps me get things done, I freely grant that. But it only works if I get them done: otherwise the pressure just frustrates me, makes me feel bad, makes me slower still.
For the business, the value of Agile is that you know where you are and that gives you a good idea of where you will be. If you’re working on stretch goals, you don’t know where you will be, you have some under-pressure wish-driven fantasy picture of where you will be. All you know for sure is that you won’t be that far along. You have doomed yourself to disappointment.
As managers, we need our developers to find their joy in getting things done. We will not prosper if they get off on the joy of heroic effort, or the joy of slamming in last-minute fixes that will save the project if only they are successful.
People under pressure take shortcuts. In software development, shortcuts show up when poorly crafted code slows us down and piles bugs upon bugs. We don’t need that.
We need to know that when something is reported done, it is actually done, working, complete. We need to know that it won’t have to be revisited, taking up an unknown amount of time in the future.
Pressure makes that impossible. Pressure robs us of what we need.
To get what we need, to get things done in a predictable fashion, to get things done well, we cannot tolerate stretch goals. We need to value commitment to a result that can be attained. Stay away from stretch goals, that’s my advice.