No Time to Learn

The number one problem I see at clients is that there is no time to learn. Without time to reflect on how things are working, we don’t notice the things that we’re accustomed to not working very well. Without time to research what others are doing, we can’t make informed choices about things we might want to try. Without time to try experiments, we can’t find out if a different approach will work better for us, or not. Without time to try multiple experiments, we can’t evaluate what works for us over a broad range of situations rather than latching onto the first idea that appears to work at all.

To a large degree, Agile software development IS learning. We try things mindfully, watch the results we get, reflect on why we get those results, and adjust. We do that at multiple levels of granularity, from choosing what products to develop to writing code that works reliably.

It takes time, but it pays off over time. To keep doing the same things in the same way suggests that we know everything there is to know about it, and there are no improvements left to make. That we are already at top speed. That we can only do worse than we are right now. I find that highly unlikely.

There is always more to learn. There are ways to learn better ways to learn.

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Comments (3) to “No Time to Learn”

  1. YES! Sadly I’ve been hearing “we don’t have time to learn” quite a bit recently, and it seems to equate to “we don’t have time to improve.” I’ve realized that sometimes people need help breaking down the learning into smaller experiments that they can feel more comfortable trying.

  2. Anyone who doesn’t get this should read “Nobody Ever Gets Credit for Fixing Problems that Never Happened” ( If they can find the time to read it. Which they just said they can’t. Damn.

    Learning has a cost. There will be some lost productivity while you learn.

    One trick that helps tremendously is to pick something small to learn, that gives you payoffs right away. This will create a little slack in which you can more easily learn the next small thing.

    Of course, learning how to pick a small thing to learn and get benefit from it right away is itself a skill that takes time to learn.

  3. Now available in French:

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