This came up when a developer brought in these planning poker cards, one of which is Yak Shaving.
There are various articles on google/wikitionary which basically say:
Yak shaving is programming lingo for the seemingly endless series of small tasks that have to be completed before the next step in a project can move forward.
I can't tell if this is used in a positive or negative way though, or if you were using planning poker cards, what this would mean.
It could mean that people believe a particular task to be Yak Shaving, in which case they think it's an endless series of tasks and thus ultimately pointless (since endless means they'll never finish). This definition gives it a negative connotation.
The definition given by the people that make those cards is that a risky task could cascade into lots of small and less important subtasks, and may need to be better defined which doesn't make much sense, as I would expect that to be taken into account when assigning points, and if it's too many points then it's time to break it down.
Or it could mean that it's a necessary step, but rather than assign it points it should just be a task that runs in the background, whenever there is downtime. For example, we need to tidy up and redecorate the new office we moved into, or we need to spend some time reading all the employee handbooks and filling in a bunch of forms. These tasks are necessary in the long run but can be performed concurrently. This is a positive but not urgent connotation because the project can move forward without it.
It could also mean the same as above, but it's a task that is required for the project to move forward. I am not sure why you wouldn't give it a point value, but perhaps it is for example harassing a supplier that is late on delivering a spec that will be needed in a few weeks - the project cannot move forward without it but it's something that takes time here and there to fire off an e-mail, make a phone call etc. This is a positive connotation of the term as well.
I'll restate the questions since it's been flagged for closing as too broad:
- I have heard this phrase at almost every job I have worked at. How it is this term used in general conversation?
- Is it positive or negative when used to describe a task?
- What is an example of Yak Shaving?