May 21, 2007
Use of Standups Considered Harmful?
Last week, I finished up a short agile mentoring engagement. One of the last comments I made to the development team was "you guys might want to consider not running standups". Based on the behaviour I'd seen there, I was fairly sure the advice was sound, but the words still felt very strange coming out of my mouth...
I should note that I'd observed this team's standups for a week or so and they were short, energetic and focussed. The only issue was the developer's not feeling they got a lot of value out of them.
Note: I take most of what should/should not be in a standup from Jason's excellent article.
The factors I took into consideration when offering my advice were:
- There is a single, centralized development team of 4-5 people all working on the same codebase
- The team works in short iterations of 1 week length
- Only the developers and Development Manager attended the standup (i.e., all Pigs, no Chickens)
- Although the development team is split across two separate rooms, there is a large amount of verbal chatter between the devs, within and across the rooms
- Status was tracked on a BVC visible to the entire company (of 14 people)
- The team had fallen into a nice groove of producing high quality code at a sustainable pace.
- The development team all signs onto a http://www.campfirenow.com/ channel as soon as they arrive in the morning and stays monitoring the channel throughout the entire day.
It's this last point which made the idea of not requiring a standup compelling. When observing the standups that were happening, I kept urging the team to present information that would be useful to their fellow developers... but they couldn't think of any. On checking the logs of the Campfire conversations, everything which I would consider gold standup material had already flowed across the ether at some stage during the day.
In short, I couldn't see any extra value that a standup would bring to the team. And the struggles the team were having in performing the standup were a sign of this.
I cannot see myself giving this advice to many (any?) other teams, but I think this is one of those situations where the team is communicating and performing at a level where no additional process is needed to support the way they are working.
May 14, 2007
12 Small Steps for a Story Wall, 1 Giant Leap for Communication
I'm currently finishing up a short term mentoring engagement with a small web startup who are adopting Agile principles for the first time. In somewhat typical startup fashion, the company (all 14 of them) is located in a 2 story apartment, with the development team in the bedrooms upstairs and the sales and marketing people in the living and dining area downstairs. Bear with me, the relevance of this information will become apparent later on.
The client have been doing a great job adopting lighterweight process just from reading books, so I haven't needed to suggest too many changes to their daily working lives, just a tweak here and there.
But by far the simplest change we implemented is bringing the biggest benefits. The development team were using a story wall on a pinboard to track work during iterations, but due to the layout of the office, the pinboard was located upstairs in the development area and therefore only benefitting the development team itself.
My suggestion was to move the wall downstairs so it was visible to everyone in the entire company. Almost as soon as doing this, the marketing and sales people started asking questions about the purpose of the wall and quickly understood what information it was showing. They were most appreciative of being able to see what features were in development, completed or not yet started. Based on this increased understanding, conversations between the business and the development team increased and were based on a common understanding of the current state of development.
So, with the cost of a longer trip downstairs to update the story wall for the developers, it's ability to act as an Information Radiator was increased greatly.
Postscript: 2 days after the story wall was moved downstairs, it was joined by another story wall created by the marketing team to track their tasks :-)