Why Agile can Lead to Burnout and How to Prevent it?

In this post, we’ll talk about how maladaptive Agile practices can lead Work Teams to burnout and how to prevent it.

Let me tell you the story of Nathalie.

A few years ago, I started consulting a company on how to streamline their ops using Agile Methodologies. In one of our initial Zoom calls, several people from other teams mentioned they wanted to learn how the new Agile approach to operations would take place.

In that group, there was Nathalie. A marketer from Chicago in her late-40s. Even though she knew just a little about the Ops plan, she mentioned that she wanted to learn about Agile and how the teams will start working together.

After witnessing hers and the entire company’s eagerness to dive into the topic, I decided to put a 90-minute explanation a week later.

Fast forward seven days; when I finished the explanation, I asked if anyone had questions.

After answering them all, I noticed a hand slowly raising on Nathalie’s Zoom Camera, so I said: “Hey Nathalie, shoot your questions!“.

She timidly said: “JJ, I hear about Agile and Sprints, and I get it. The question is if we’re going to run sprint, over sprint, over sprint, …when will we have time to recover?

At that moment, it dawned on me that she had a good point and that many of our Tech Teams had normalized the notion of running sprints none stop :/


What happens in Sports?

When we look at sports, we don’t see any athlete running a marathon immediately after another, not even sprinting 100m over 100m.

We see them do their best and then recover.

So, even though we may work in offices and the corporate world, if we’re working on sprints, we should also be called “Sprinters“.

And, if we’re sprinters, therefore, we must adhere to proper recovery


The 2 Problems with Recovery

Individually and collectively, we all have great Resting and Recovery Aspirations, but we’re missing practical applications.

That’s where two problems emerge:

1. Lack of personalized Recovery Strategies

Just sleep more,” “practice meditation,” or “breathe deeply” are well-intended recommendations, but they fall short.

Giving suggestions like that is like saying: “go get some Advil” when you may have a bone fracture.

2. Recovery Time not being respected

Yes, theoretically, the weekends are supposed to help us rest, but Rest and Recovery are very different.

Rest means taking a break from work. Recovery means taking strategic measures to maximize our cognitive and nervous system repair.

We take breaks (and often, we have to force ourselves to do it), but we do not respect Recovery times.


Human Observability

So, how do we overcome this?

First, leveraging Human Observability. 

So, what does that mean?

We are at a Tech age where we can wear an Oura Ring, an Apple Watch, an 8Sleep Mattress, or a Muse Headband to track our Heart Rate Variability, sleep cycles, and brain waves.

It means we can apply our Observability skills to collect and make data-informed decisions about ourselves.


The 2 Proposed Solutions

So, how do we apply this?

There are two critical ingredients to ensuring you get optimal recovery:

1.  Precision Recovery

This is a concept that I authored that means Knowing precisely what your mind, body, and especially, your individual Nervous System requires to get back to optimal performance.

My recovery may require sleeping 7 hours. Yours may need 8 hours and a 15-minute power nap during the day. Recovery for me may mean taking a 60 min walk a day; for someone else, 15 min every few hours.

2.  Ritualize Recovery

In this part, we treat our recovery as sacredly as we do with our Daily-standup, Planning, or any other type of agile Ceremonies. In other words, if we are disciplined in attending those meetings, therefore, we can also be equally disciplined with our recovery.


Remember you’re a “Mental Athlete.

Finally, even though our brain weighs 2% of our body weight, it consumes 20% of the entire energy of the body.

We are creative, problem-solver, engineers, project managers, designers, and many other roles. That means that we consume way more than that 20% every single day.

Without proper recovery of the mental and physical energy, we couldn’t perform at the level that we nor our Team expect.

It’s time to start treating ourselves like Mental Athletes, avoiding burnout, and instead, aiming to achieve Optimal Performance.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can find more on my podcast Optimizing Me on Spotify, or simply drop a comment here and let’s keep up with the conversation.




Leave a Reply

Contact us

All rights reserved. 2022. Desarrollado por Estudio AZA.