Interruption Balloons


The team complains that they are not able to get close to commiting to their capacity because they are constantly being interrupted. Nobody in the company thinks anything is wrong, because they only ask for a few minutes of the team’s time an iteration. Are the teams really interrupted that much? If they are, how can we demonstrate to the rest of the organization that their ‘brief’ interruptions have long lasting impacts?


  • A few bags of red balloons.
  • Lungs (Or other inflating device)


  1. When someone comes in to interrupt the team, grab a balloon and start blowing it up while they explain the problem
  2. If they ask what you’re doing, explain that you’re trying to track time spent not working on the iteration.
  3. Blow up another balloon for every 15 minutes spent interrupted.
  4. Blow up a balloon for every interruption. Even if it is just 5 minutes, blow up a balloon. Most interruptions require you to context switch, so even a 1 minute interruption will require several minutes to switch gears to deal with the interruption, and another few to switch back.
  5. Leave the balloons lying around the team space.


What this does

By the end of the iteration, it is not uncommon to have the bullpen so polluted with red balloons that it becomes difficult to freely walk around. This highlights the devastating effect that a number of individual interruptions have on the iteration. By adding up the total number of balloons and multiplying by 15 minutes, the team can gain a pretty quick approximation of the actual time spent on all interruptions.

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