Why Small Batches Make Us Happy

March 10, 2022
4 surprising ways that small batches affect us psychologically

This article is the third in a series on small batches.

  1. Why Your Business Should Care About Small Batches
  2. How Small Batches Improve Our Code
  3. Why Small Batches Make Us Happy

Welcome to the third small batch of my list of small batch benefits! Last week I talked about how small batches can improve our code, and before that, how small batches can benefit the business.

Today’s topic I find to be even more fascinating, however: The idea that small batches of work actually make us happier!

Improved employee happiness

An intersting finding shared in Accelerate was the measurable improvement in company culture and employee happiness in the companies that release software in more frequent, smaller batches. Employees on the same teams also reported a stronger self-identification with the company the work for.

Better focus

By working on small, focused tasks one at a time, we can actually do higher quality work. Humans are notoriously bad at multitasking. When we try to tackle a big software change as a whole, we’re often forcing our brain to try to multi-task, or at least hold a lot of context in mind at once. If we can instead focus on just a small part of the bigger problem, we’ll often do it faster, and with better results.

Interruptions are cheaper

Picture this: You’ve been hacking away for 3 hours on the greatest new feature for your eager customers… then the phone rings. You talk to your mom, or your boss, or whomever, for 30 minutes. Then you turn back to your work and…

Where was I? This looks like spaghetti… What the…

When we work in smaller batches, interruptions are much less expensive. In a way, this is a corallary to the earlier point on better focus. When you work in small batches, context switching is less harmful, simply because there is less context to switch!

The dopamine hit

One often overlooked benefit of working in small batches is that it just feels good!

Whenever we accomplish something, we’re rewarded biologically with a small dopamine hit.

See your red test go to green with TDD? Dopamine!
Watch your new feature work the first time? Dopamine!
Pushed a new feature into production? Dopamine!

Let’s get that satisfaction as quickly as possible, and boost our motivation to do more of it!

Where do we start?

That’s my non-exhaustive list of reasons I think smaller batches are beneficial. But where do we go from here?

Of course that depends on where you are now. But perhaps more important, there’s no universally best place to start. Every team and project is different, and has different bottlenecks and constraints. But one proven way I’ve helped several teams begin to benefit from smaller batches is by implementing Continuous Deployment “backwards”. That is, we put in place a minimal, or “lean” CD process to automate deployments, possibly before automating anything else. This then serves as a framework to focus the streamlining of the other processes leading up to deployment, and offers clear feedback when our batches are too big.

If you’re interested in exploring this option for your team, I have a free email course, the Lean CD Bootcamp, which you are welcome to take, and hit me up with any questions. I always respond personally!

Related Content

How Small Batches Improve Our Code

5 ways smaller releases, pull requests, user stories, and commits can improve your code

How to get better at story slicing

How do you avoid days-long pull requests? How do you make your changes smaller?

Why Your Business Should Care About Small Batches

5 ways smaller software releases can impact your business