Shwetha stormed out of her manager’s room. She just couldn’t believe the conversation they just had. Her manager, Bhavik, had just shown her how much time she spent on ‘small talk’ on the slack channel.
When she pointed out that she had completed many of her tasks on time and would definitely improve, he said “This is why I don’t like to hire girls! Gossip all the time and no productive work at all!”
She wanted to go to the HR and complain, but didn’t really know what their policy was like. This was not a big and established company like Wipro or Tech Mahindra. It was a small start up and the HR would perhaps not even have any policy on this. She felt so overwhelmed. She went to the canteen and ordered a strong filter coffee so she could clear her head and think this through.
As she reflected on why she engaged in gossip, she began realizing a few things. The core of issue was dozens of different tools and platforms for various tasks, such as Eclipse for coding, Selenium for testing, Jenkins for deploying, Skype for communicating, GitHub for collaborating, Google Docs for documenting and more. She felt overwhelmed by the amount of information and notifications she had to process every day. College hadn’t prepared her for this at all!
She also had to switch between different contexts and projects frequently, which made it hard for her to focus and keep track of her progress. Complicating the issue was remote work. She worked from the comfort of her home. But, she badly missed socializing with her colleagues.
Result. She took refuge in some team gossip. It wasn’t like she was the only one doing it. There were others. But she had been singled out today. She wanted to resign and go home. But that too was not a great option.
Her parents had wanted her to get married and settle down. She wanted to work and her ambitions led her here. She began to feel as a failure both professionally and personally.
Have you ever felt like Shwetha? May not be exactly like that. But somewhat like that?
Tool Fatigue is more common than you think!
It’s easy to understand Shwetha’s situation, If you’re a part of a high performance agile team. You probably know the feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tools, frameworks, libraries and technologies that you have to learn and use in your daily work.
Additionally, you might feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up with the latest trends and best practices, or that you’re spending more time configuring and debugging your tools than actually writing code. You might also feel frustrated by the complexity and inconsistency of the different platforms, or by the lack of support and documentation for some of the tools you use.
This is what I call tool fatigue: a state of mental exhaustion caused by the cognitive load of dealing with too many tools that are often complex, unstable or incompatible. Tool fatigue can negatively impact your emotional state, your productivity and your creativity. It can also lead to burnout: a condition of chronic stress that can cause physical and mental health problems.
Agile Tools, Context Switching & Tool Fatigue
With the explosive adoption of the Agile Methodologies, thanks to the pandemic, hybrid work and the resulting revolution, there is an explosion in Agile Tools. Every other tool now has an Agile component. Slack can help Agile Teams foster collaboration. Google Docs can help teams produce great documentation. And Bing Chat can write perfect User Stories for your Agile project (Okay! I made this up!)
Furthermore, each tool keeps evolving, adding new features, coming up with new frameworks. Classic build up leading to Tool Fatigue. Additionally when you switch to the tool, you switch the context of your work. Unless you are razor sharp in your focus, you can quickly lose context and engage in friendly ‘gossip’ like Shwetha did, completely undermining your productive contribution.
Prakya: A platform built to avoid Tool Fatigue and keep teams’ mental health intact
So how can we avoid tool fatigue and burnout in agile teams? How can we simplify our workflows and focus on what really matters: creating great user experiences that make people happy?
As early as 2020, January, by the time we incorporated Prakya, we had clearly recognized what Tool Fatigue would do and understood that this is an upward trend that would need addressing. That is why we built our Agile work platform based on some principles.
Principle#1: The process of being Agile will remain as invisible to teams as possible.
If there is one thing that adds to the already existing cognitive overload, then it is learning a new methodology and then developing a workflow around that. This is the reason why Prakya users can begin with something as simple as a Kanban board and a team backlog. Then as they use the system, Prakya will keep prompting them subtly to unlock features that would help them to manage their work better.
Principle#2: You scale the work, we scale the process. Scaling processes is as invisible as possible.
When you add more projects or more features and user stories to the existing projects, when you bring in more team members into your organization or when you add new product lines through additional portfolios, Prakya can scale accordingly. The process of scaling can be complete with a few button clicks to unlock a specific feature set, which Prakya would recommend based on your actions.
Principle#3: Minimize work about work
With Prakya the visibility of your work is clearly defined at the team, sprint, program and portfolio level. Work progress auto propagates to all these levels. You don’t have to lift an additional finger to create reports to multiple stakeholders by rehashing the same data. Prakya does all the heavy lifting needed.
Principle#4: Minimize context switching
With Prakya you don’t need multiple tools. You will be able to plan, document, collaborate and execute all your agile work from a single platform. To simplify, when you sign up for Prakya, you will get access to a team backlog, a sprint planner, a calendar, a document store, a chat application and a video conferencing tool all folded into one. You may still write code and deploy it elsewhere, but the rest of the work can be done through Prakya. By minimizing context switching, you give your teams a chance to do what they love to do.
With these four principles Prakya reduces the cognitive load for Agile Teams Prakya becomes a tool that is consistent, reliable and compatible, a tool that provides guidance and feedback which you can use to solve problems rather than create them.