The first installment in my ‘Going Agile’ series will reflect on the earliest days that led up to our development team becoming an Agile development team. Before I get into this too deep, I should first set the stage a little. This organization is a medium sized ($500M in revenue) software company, with no other teams using Agile techniques. We were going to be the first. The product was well established, having been on the market for about 5 years, and traditional development methods were fairly effective from a delivery and quality perspective. The team comprised of about 12 members, which included all developers, testers, documentation, the Scrum Master, and myself as the Product Owner.
The first meeting ever held with the whole team was intended to introduce Agile (Scrum) to them and get their buy in…we did not want to ram it down their throats and say we are doing this. At the time we were doing this, the concept of an Agile Coach was pretty much non-existent, so we were on our own. Our Scrum Master had been on some training, and thought for this meeting it would be good to try an exercise with the team to illustrate how Agile could work. So without any preamble or mention of Agile, everyone in the room was instructed to pick a partner, and then the goal of the exercise was explained. The goal was to navigate your team member around the room as many times as possible in 1 minute. Seemed pretty easy, until we told them about the twist…the team member that was walking around the room was to be blind folded. To add to the fun, our Scrum Master played the role of a roadblock, stepping in front of the blind folded people as they tried to circle the room, requiring new instructions to be shouted out to navigate around him. Once the clock started the chaos broke out, as 6 different people were simultaneously shouting out instructions trying to navigate their team member around the room, and around the roadblock. By the end of the 60 seconds we tallied total trips around the room, and came up with a number in the 30’s.
The 2nd part of the exercise was quite a bit simpler, and merely had all team members walk around the room (no blind folds), and make their own decisions to navigate around the room and the ‘roadblock’. I’m sure you can imagine how much calmer the room was, and by the end of the 60 seconds we again tallied our results. This time we were well over 120.
So what was the purpose of this exercise, and how did it relate to Agile? Basically it illustrated the power of a self-managing team, and how the productivity of such a team can be magnitudes better when team members are given the ability to make decisions on their own, in real-time. After the exercise, we then introduced the idea of the team adopting Agile, what it is, how it could work, etc. In my opinion, doing this exercise first (and doing it without ever mentioning the term Agile) did more than a week’s worth of powerpoint sessions on why Agile is the way to go. The team was very receptive to the idea (at least most members, more on that in another blog), which set the stage for a series of follow on meetings to further flesh out what was really involved, and what needed to be done to prepare for our first Iteration. The next installment in this series will delve into that preparation.