How to Promote a Sustainable Pace?


Key Principle: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

An open question: What kinds of things are you doing to help promote a sustainable pace in your organization?

My particular situation: SAFe, ~250 people, very aggressive goals for MVP, about ~6 months to target launch.


6 month MVP? Me thinks someone has an incorrect understanding of terms :slight_smile:

For me sustainable pace is managed via several factors:

  • Improved technical practices
  • Continous integration
  • Meaningful metrics
  • Effective leadership - being present with the team to understand the true pulse
  • Anonymous feedback loops
  • Reward systems that recognize outcomes

Also important, is executive management. And by that I don’t mean good executives, I mean managing executives. Either by coaching them, proper expectation management or involving them in pace discussions.


Let’s not get stuck on semantics… Project is currently in limited beta; functional working software. Increments of value shipping every 6 weeks. The grand public opening, with full marketing force behind it happens in 6 months.

I love your bullet points. All ring true.

What tools are you using for the last two: feedback loops, reward systems. How did you land on those in your particular context? What’s working? What can be improved?


Feedback loops

  • 1:1 meetings where I not only give feedback, but proactively ask for feedback for myself as a leader
  • Sitting in team space as a manager, not sequestered in an office or other location
  • Anonymous feedback system is OfficeVibe - there are other tools but this one works well for me

Reward system
I use the Management 3.0 Kudos Box practice but apply it to my distributed teams. About a year ago I wrote up an article on this for Scrum Alliance - the process has modified slightly, but this gives the nuts and bolts.

Improvements are seen in the need to find scalable options for my company, as it is a global enterprise. These techniques currently work for my 35 person team, but applying everything (except OfficeVibe) at scale is difficult. Also, my team is asking for more open-sourced access to peer-to-peer comments in the kudos process. With a distributed team that is a challenge I am still trying to figure out. Any suggestions?


What about Google Survey / Form?


Survey monkey, currently


What defines sustainable pace? Are the teams delivering on a constant velocity? A 6 month MVP might not be an aggressive target. Are you burning up to features? If you are deploying utilizing SAFe is everyone on the same ART? Do you have the Value Streams Defined? Are you planning each release during PI planning? Seems like it should be a bit more transparent…


Hi Ryan.

What I feel might be missing as an explicit element in your bullet points is: wellness of people as individuals and communities/teams. If people feel all this excitement to create and perform, but the culture does not make it safe to say (or even to notice) “I am worn out/frustrated/worried” then the people element will wear out quietly (or disengage) until you have non-functional/dysfunctional/missing people in your processes.

To promote health and a sense of safety for people and the whole system, I advocate for these elements:

  • Liftoff for products or teams
  • frequent Retrospectives (also often a good starting point in existing teams/products)
  • regular activities for personal development for those leading change (personal coaching is a time-effective way, and there are many others)
  • communities of practice
  • wellness as an actively modelled workplace value.

Because they may feel like meta-processes (not directly related to the production process) there can be pressure to dispense with these when things all seem rosy. But because they build personal and organisational resiliency, I see them as “insurance” - worth “paying for” on clear days, so everyone is equipped to handle the storms that invariably come.

Sadly, these are often the first practices to be sacrificed, or “deferred” (same thing), which is short-sighted and undisciplined, in my view. Leading to bursts of brilliance, followed by burnout and refactoring of people (and probably software, per Conway’s law)



I will “yes, and” both @dpreuss and @ryan’s suggestions.

People and the system. And feedback loops between both.


Hi @andycleff,

For me, this is about being able to show the price that the organisation pays when they fail to maintain sustainable pace. That ‘price’ is often about people’s happiness and engagement, their ability to think strategically and systemically (which is really hard when one if super busy 100% of the time) and to deliver without accumulating considerable technical debt (which is often a direct effect of unsustainable pace). The more specific you can be in describing these implications/consequences in the context of your organisation (perhaps by also developing is simple model that shows the cost of accumulating tech debt and implementing stop-gap solutions), the more likely it is to resonate with the management team.



I’m sure employee retention/turnover would also be a good metric. Unfortunately it would be a lagging indicator. Happiness and engagement on the other hand would be leading. It’s that feedback loops @ryan mentioned above.


Us military refers to it as OPTEMPO or Operations Tempo. Perhaps there are ideas you can borrow online from that?

It is kind of like a Talent Management issue. Will see if I can dig up a URL that specializes in engagement and satisfaction.


I want to see if I can get the following in place for 2017: