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Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Getting Things Done with SWAT Mode

Getting Things Done with SWAT Mode

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Getting things done during a big project can be a real series of humps and hurdles.  You can quickly get overloaded and overwhelmed if you don’t have a way to stay on top of things and to outpace your problems.

I wrote a post on SWAT Mode for Extreme Productivity

“SWAT Mode” is the term we used on one of my early teams in patterns & practices.  When we would start falling behind and our backlog was out of control, we would go into SWAT Mode.   In SWAT Mode, we used extreme focus and high-energy to get things done.  We would swarm our problems as a team, in an “all hands on deck” sort of way, and blast through our backlog like it was nobody’s business.

What I didn’t realize at the time, but later appreciated, was how these short-bursts of extreme focus and energy created momentum that helped us complete our projects time, on budget time, and high impact, time and time again.   During any significant project, it’s easy to fall behind, and gradually get overwhelmed by a lot of little things that add up.

Going into SWAT Mode, really starts with a mindset.   You drive from a sense of urgency, with the intention of getting things done.  You switch gears into overdrive and you plow through the pile that stands before you.

The beauty of going into SWAT Mode is not just the fact that you get back on top of things.  It’s also that while you are in SWAT mode, you often experience states of flow.  You’re fully engaged.  You’re not distracted.  You’re challenged and putting your skills to the test at a faster pace.  You’re fully engaged.

It can be hard to get people into SWAT Mode if they haven’t done it before.  One of the simplest ways is to take the team offsite, and focus for the day.   Changing the environment makes it easier to try something new.   The best way to start off is to put a short list of the high impact outcomes you want to achieve.   These are the things that have eaten away at your energy and bogged you down.  It’s time to tackle them and blast through them, or at least put a serious dent in them.

The worst case scenario is that you don’t make as much progress as you wanted.  The best case is that you’ve gotten rid of the things that were starting to hold you back and wear you down.   Instead of you getting overwhelmed, you overwhelmed your problem.   Sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes.  The more you learn to outpace your problems, the more you learn to stay on top of things in simpler and more sustainable ways.