Sustainable Development is an approach that can be used by software teams to ensure a consistently healthy approach to their work over long periods.
Part of the Agile Manifesto reads:
“Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.”
Sustainable Development is a set of 3 simple principles that further refines the above. Adopting the Sustainable Development principles helps teams work healthily, and for longer.
Why Practice Sustainable Development?
Many software teams work unsustainably. It is easy to find stories of engineers being overwhelmed working long hours over evenings and weekends, or having stressful pressure applied to them to deliver on unreasonable timelines.
Too much stress causes engineers to perform worse, be less creative, and eventually burn out and resign. While this is obviously tough for the engineer, this is also difficult for their employer as the cost of hiring and training a replacement is usually high.
Ensuring a stress-free workplace with reasonable expectations for team members is a worthwhile ethical goal. Adopted widely enough, it will benefit the whole software engineering industry.
How Does it Work?
Teams that adopt the 3 principles start by working to define together how they believe they can operate sustainably.
Firstly, Each team will create their own approaches based on their own culture, challenges, mission, and beliefs. Crucially, their approach to sustainable development must be defined by all team members, especially including management.
Secondly, Once the team has defined their approach, they must strive to follow it. For example, if a team collectively agrees that they should rarely work past 6pm, it doesn’t help if most of the team responds to emails late at night.
Thirdly, the entire team should continually improve their own chosen approach to sustainable development. They can do this through retrospectives and other kinds of feedback sessions. Again, this should include all the stakeholders who are affected by the choices made in the team’s approach to sustainable development.
After familiarizing yourself with the 3 principles of Sustainable Development, learn about how other teams put them into practice, read the FAQ, and browse the resources for further reading on the importance of work/life balance and other approaches to stress reduction in the workplace.