Does Agile (Scrum, Kanban, etc.) Reduce Multitasking or Task Switching?


Does Agile Reduce Multitasking?The short, simple answer to this question is “no, not really.” The only real way to get rid of task switching is to actively work to reduce task switching. The longer answer is a little more complicated than just saying, “No.”

Agile frameworks and methodologies, including Scrum and Kanban, do not have an explicitly defined objective of eliminating task switching or multitasking. Efficiency improvement by way of reducing task switching is in no way guaranteed by the implementation of Agile practices. In some cases, initial adoption of an Agile framework my increase task switching while the team adjusts to the new processes.

Within Agile and any of its various flavors, there needs to be a consideration for continuous improvement. Within continuous improvement, inefficiency or waste needs to be identified and actively improved upon. Task switching can cause wastes of time, money, and quality, and it could be seen as a potential improvement area.

This means that a team can be Agile and still have task switching occur. Adopting and implementing Agile doesn’t immediately cure task switching. If task switching is not identified as a large enough concern, task switching may never go away. The reduction of task switching would all depend on what a team decides to actively work on to improve their own performance and reduce the inefficient processes.

In some cases, the Agile framework indicates a more dedicated team to the work efforts. In a framework like Scrum, a team member shouldn’t be working on projects outside of the Scrum Team. Adhering to the idea of dedicated team members could potentially reduce task switching if a prior practice was to place people on multiple projects at a time. (*You don’t need Scrum to end the practice, you could just end the practice.)

Scrum won’t stop the practice of switching between multiple tasks related to the Scrum team’s work. The team, if it identifies activities as wasteful, would need to actively reduce those activities through their continuous improvement efforts.

Generally speaking, due to the inefficiency of task switching, environments that rely heavily on the practice for their daily work would most likely be considered “Not Agile.” This is mostly subject to the opinions of people with no clear cut line that defines “Agile” and “Not Agile.”

Task switching is likely to be present in any business at any time, even in organizations that strongly discourage the practice and also in well-established Agile environments. Agile alone is not the cure, but Agile, recognition of the inefficiency, and some effort could go a long way towards reducing the practice of task switching.


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