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Recently I was coaching teams at OpenView Venture Partners and Scott Maxwell, the founding partner, jumped up and said, “Jeff, I want to show you the Maxwell Curve! Here is what we have learned by running Scrum internally with teams of venture capitalists making investments.”

“As venture capitalists we used to want people to work harder and harder to get more productivity, certainly more than 40 hours a week. We would push them and push them until they started to burn out, get demoralized, and threaten to quit.”

“Now it is different with Scrum. In order to double our productivity we need to work less, certainly no more than 40 hours a week. Scrum is intense and you cannot work extra hours at that pace without losing productivity.”

The VCs proved to themselves that sustainable pace works. The maximum productivity point is no more than 40 hours a week with Scrum.

The head of OpenView Labs that supports our investment portfolio companies recently told me he was concerned. Productivity had stayed about the same when they cut their 60 hour weeks to 40 hour weeks. He felt guilty they hadn’t doubled productivity although he was happy with a major improvement in lifestyle for him and his team.

He asked me to do a retrospective with his team to see what they could do to improve. I found out that the number of story points was up 20% by moving the work week to a sustainable pace. However, 25-35% of the stories they used to work on were eliminated by prioritizing the Scrum Product Backlog (they were considered “junk” stories). This meant that they used to have to do about 160 story points to achieve the 120 story points per week they do today.

So their velocity is 160% higher by working a shorter work week. The big question for them is, “Would velocity increase if they worked less?”