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Comparing Stability and Sustainability in
Agile Systems
Rob Healy, Brian Fitzgerald, Kieran Conboy, Tapajit Dey
and Edwin Lewzey
The Challenge: Preventing Death (and injury) by Overwork
1 of 12
? 12 billion working days are lost each year
annually around the world due to mental
health issues of depression and anxiety, at a
cost of up to $1 trillion
? “decent work” is good for mental health but
also that poor working environments with
excessive workloads and long and unsocial
hours could pose a risk to mental health.
? In 2021, the WHO said that “working 55
hours a week or more is a serious health
hazard”
? In 2016, some 745,000 people died of heart
attacks and strokes because of working long
hours, a rise of 29% from 2000.
? Decent work is also listed as goal number 8
of the UN’s sustainability goals.
Remembering Adam Rzepkowski
2 of 12
Modelling Agile Systems as Queues
3 of 12
? =
?
?
Done Work
λ ?
Queues in Agile Systems: the fallacy of assumed stability
4 of 12
Queues in Agile Systems: the Stability Strategy Benchmark
5 of 12
[CELLRANGE]
[CELLRANGE]
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
1.4
1.6
1.8
2
0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000
Stability
Metric
Inventory Days (days)
Catch-up Plan-up Scale-up Start-up
Case Study: intive
? intive is a global technology professional
services company headquartered in Germany
? Since 1999 its software development teams
have delivered Agile projects for clients.
? intive offers flexible working conditions to its
employees based on a typical 40-hour,
Monday-to-Friday working week
? Staff are expected to typically observe core
working hours between 10am to 4pm but
there is significant flexibility.
? We got permission to extract process data
for 295 closed Jira Projects.
? These projects contained 181,014 PBIs
created between 2008 to 2023.
? In Europe, where most of the closed projects
were originally performed, intive has offices
crossing three time zones
Does System Stability keep Agile Team members awake at night?
6 of 12
Methodology
7 of 12
RQ: “Is there a relationship between the stability of Agile systems and unsustainable hours worked?”
Results 1
8 of 12
Results 1: Stability vs Unsustainability
9 of 12
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00% 100.00%
Stability
Metric
Percentage Out of Expected Hours (6am-6pm Mon-Fri)
Arrival Unsustainability Service Unsustainability
Results 2: Inventory vs Unsustainability
10 of 12
0.1
1
10
100
1000
10000
0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00% 100.00%
Inventory
Days
(log
scale)
Percentage Out of Expected Hours (6am-6pm Mon-Fri)
Arrival Unsustainability Service Unsustainability
Conclusions
10 of 12
? Overwork is a dangerous activity
that has increased over the last
twenty years that has negative
impacts on workers' physical
and mental health.
? We found no evidence to
suggest that either the speed or
volume of work was related to
excess hours.
? This finding may be useful to
other researchers seeking to
examine the actual causes of
excess work.
?
Limitations & Planned Future work
11 of 12
? Only historic closed projects
were shared, and only process
data. Some of the projects had
teams migrate to other systems,
usually client systems, and in
other cases, the project came to
an end for commercial reasons.
? Only the period between 6pm to
6am Monday to Friday to denote
“Unsustainable Hours”.
? This study used Jira records as a
proxy for work performed.
Done Work
Won’t Do
Feedback (bugs)
α
ω
ω
λ
γ
?
λ
+
+
+
+
? =
?
?
=
? + ?
? ? ?
?
Fig 3. Block model for and Agile Control System.
Note the queueing model at the centre of the system
Call to Action: Work Honest Hours in an Honest System
12 of 12
? This presentation was (first) written
at 4 am.
? It’s easy to look to cheat a system
by working late or early, over a
weekend or while “on holiday”.
? Be honest in your work and with
your team and yourself.
? If you discover a pattern for
intrinsic / extrinsic motivations for
overwork record it and share it with
the community – your insights may
save lives. ?
Questions?

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Comparing Stability and Sustainability in Agile Systems

  • 1. Comparing Stability and Sustainability in Agile Systems Rob Healy, Brian Fitzgerald, Kieran Conboy, Tapajit Dey and Edwin Lewzey
  • 2. The Challenge: Preventing Death (and injury) by Overwork 1 of 12 ? 12 billion working days are lost each year annually around the world due to mental health issues of depression and anxiety, at a cost of up to $1 trillion ? “decent work” is good for mental health but also that poor working environments with excessive workloads and long and unsocial hours could pose a risk to mental health. ? In 2021, the WHO said that “working 55 hours a week or more is a serious health hazard” ? In 2016, some 745,000 people died of heart attacks and strokes because of working long hours, a rise of 29% from 2000. ? Decent work is also listed as goal number 8 of the UN’s sustainability goals.
  • 4. Modelling Agile Systems as Queues 3 of 12 ? = ? ? Done Work λ ?
  • 5. Queues in Agile Systems: the fallacy of assumed stability 4 of 12
  • 6. Queues in Agile Systems: the Stability Strategy Benchmark 5 of 12 [CELLRANGE] [CELLRANGE] 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000 Stability Metric Inventory Days (days) Catch-up Plan-up Scale-up Start-up
  • 7. Case Study: intive ? intive is a global technology professional services company headquartered in Germany ? Since 1999 its software development teams have delivered Agile projects for clients. ? intive offers flexible working conditions to its employees based on a typical 40-hour, Monday-to-Friday working week ? Staff are expected to typically observe core working hours between 10am to 4pm but there is significant flexibility. ? We got permission to extract process data for 295 closed Jira Projects. ? These projects contained 181,014 PBIs created between 2008 to 2023. ? In Europe, where most of the closed projects were originally performed, intive has offices crossing three time zones Does System Stability keep Agile Team members awake at night? 6 of 12
  • 8. Methodology 7 of 12 RQ: “Is there a relationship between the stability of Agile systems and unsustainable hours worked?”
  • 10. Results 1: Stability vs Unsustainability 9 of 12 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00% 100.00% Stability Metric Percentage Out of Expected Hours (6am-6pm Mon-Fri) Arrival Unsustainability Service Unsustainability
  • 11. Results 2: Inventory vs Unsustainability 10 of 12 0.1 1 10 100 1000 10000 0.00% 10.00% 20.00% 30.00% 40.00% 50.00% 60.00% 70.00% 80.00% 90.00% 100.00% Inventory Days (log scale) Percentage Out of Expected Hours (6am-6pm Mon-Fri) Arrival Unsustainability Service Unsustainability
  • 12. Conclusions 10 of 12 ? Overwork is a dangerous activity that has increased over the last twenty years that has negative impacts on workers' physical and mental health. ? We found no evidence to suggest that either the speed or volume of work was related to excess hours. ? This finding may be useful to other researchers seeking to examine the actual causes of excess work. ?
  • 13. Limitations & Planned Future work 11 of 12 ? Only historic closed projects were shared, and only process data. Some of the projects had teams migrate to other systems, usually client systems, and in other cases, the project came to an end for commercial reasons. ? Only the period between 6pm to 6am Monday to Friday to denote “Unsustainable Hours”. ? This study used Jira records as a proxy for work performed. Done Work Won’t Do Feedback (bugs) α ω ω λ γ ? λ + + + + ? = ? ? = ? + ? ? ? ? ? Fig 3. Block model for and Agile Control System. Note the queueing model at the centre of the system
  • 14. Call to Action: Work Honest Hours in an Honest System 12 of 12 ? This presentation was (first) written at 4 am. ? It’s easy to look to cheat a system by working late or early, over a weekend or while “on holiday”. ? Be honest in your work and with your team and yourself. ? If you discover a pattern for intrinsic / extrinsic motivations for overwork record it and share it with the community – your insights may save lives. ?
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