- Agile Leadership Development
- Product Owner
Occasionally, I’ve been asked to help design team rooms for a client. They may have been planning to hire an ergonomic architect/designer in addition to an Agile Coach. Great, but before they got that far, I had two suggestions for them:
- Involve your existing Agile team members in discussions in order to uncover their needs.
- Involve someone who has actually been on a number of Agile teams in a variety of spaces. Of course, I volunteered me! When I’ve acted as XP coach (mostly 1998-2004), I sat with teams and wrote code.
Some ingredients that I recommend for a tasty Agile team-space:
- A space to hold the daily stand-up, near where the iteration or kanban board and graphs are prominently displayed.
- Space to sit side-by-side at a computer, rather than having to look over someone’s shoulder, cramped in their cube. Desks that have a long, straight edge, or slight outward curve, work best. Rolling chairs are great, but should not be too bulky. Whether or not your teams will be doing pair-programming, you must avoid restricting collaboration. Cubes are innovation-constraints.
- Plenty of available whiteboard space for brainstorming (not already used for charts).
- A space to hold an ad hoc team meeting, without having to reserve a conference room. Just think: If the team can hold all of its own meetings in its own space, that will free up the conference-room schedule for the execs. Whenever I see a dozen people get up and run out of a cube farm, only to file into a small conference room, I have to laugh…sadly. Only the manufacturers of cube walls are happy with this arrangement.
- Sound-blocking walls or dividers to separate the team from other teams or co-workers outside the team. A team must be able to be noisy when necessary. If you’re breaking up a huge open floor, consider hanging those architecturally interesting glass dividers above a half-wall. This gives teams plenty of light from windows without having to listen to the neighboring team’s release-retrospective party.
All of the above need to be incorporated into the same space, not spread out. A meeting could be held by having everyone turn their chairs. A brainstorming session between two developers should allow others to tune in, or tune out, without leaving their workstations.
You can easily prototype a team-space design: Within a single walled-off room, start with one team, fold in some folding tables, and toss with a few rolling whiteboards. Then wait and see how the team chooses to arrange their own furniture.
Often, the teams remain happier with the folding tables than with prefab, fixed-position desks. They like to be able to convert the space to meet any occasion, such as a theater for Thursday evening movie night.
|A gourmet team-space at Menlo Innovations, Ann Arbor, MI|
Now, garnish with the following:
- Space to hold a private conversation with a colleague, or to call home, or to feed a baby. This does not, however, need to be a personalized cube, one per person. It can be a shared space with a sign-up sheet. It needs to have a door to close and block out the rest of the team.
- A table or shelving unit for snacks, books, and other sundry items.
Note that I left these last items out of the “complete team space” list. These last few ingredients could be incorporated into the team-space, or not: As long as they’re within a short walk, we have provided an opportunity to get up out of our chairs.
Q: “Where do I store my personal items, certificates of achievement, pictures of family?”
Keep these to a minimum, keep them portable (in a purse or backpack), and set them up wherever you’re working each day.
When I see pictures of a spouse or child on a cube wall, I often ask, “How long has it been since you’ve seen them?” If the answer is greater than nine hours, I say “Perhaps it’s time you head home!”
Q: “My books?”
I encourage teams to have a team library (perhaps with the snacks). Write your name on the book and add it to the library.
Remember: We’re at work to work. It should be a place we want to go, to have fun collaborating with our colleagues and creating innovative solutions. Not a place so painful that we need to distract ourselves with photos of Maui, or Foosball.
By the way, I have nothing against quieter, mentally stimulating games or toys, such as Nerf guns. In fact…
- Nerf guns. A necessity.
Earlier this summer, an event that has defied naming was held for the sixth consecutive year. Agile For All’s advanced training event, Humanizing Work, took place in the mountains of Colorado in Beaver Creek, with 99 people in attendance.
You’ve heard the old adage about the lumberjack who—in order to cut a tree in an hour—will take 45 minutes to sharpen the saw? This old analogy really needs updating: Not many of us are all that familiar with the logging industry.
I like to instead use the metaphor of the chef who sharpens her knives before cooking.
In our BDD course, we use a real example of an online library patron portal. Course participants are provided with a number of (often vague) business rules regarding whether or not a book loan can be renewed. Some have to do with the state of the book (e.g., has another patron requested a “hold” on the book?) and others on the loan, itself (e.g., has this patron already renewed twice?).
We have done a huge disservice to leaders and managers, as well as teams. There are plenty of people that will say we don’t need managers and leaders. People can lead themselves. While there is an aspect of this that may be true, there are a lot of steps to get close to that idea.
This article will explore what leaders and managers need to do to succeed as they get started with agile or to help teams move from individuals to a team or even a high-performance team. It builds on Agile Leadership Myth #2: Self-Organizing Teams Don’t Need Any Help. Read More
I often get questions about testing “the user interface” or “the front end.” This comes up in all our technical Agile classes (Behavior Driven Development, Essential Test-Driven Development, Certified Scrum Developer), or most frequently during coaching.
We’ve seen how refactoring becomes the primary design activity on an Agile team. Diligent, confident refactoring is possible to the degree that the code is tested through an automated test suite. If the tests don’t cover a portion of the code, a defect may be introduced when that code is altered. If the tests are slow, they’ll run less frequently, and the time between the introduction of a defect and the detection of that defect is slowed.
How did we arrive at this place where so many people believe that self-organizing teams do not need help? The fact is, self-organizing teams DO need help.
What teams can experience: Teams might not know exactly what kind of help they need or even how to describe it. This can be especially true if they had a manager-led team and were told what to do and when to do it. I hear teams say, “we don’t need managers”, but they often mean that they don’t need managers telling them what to do.
What managers can experience: Managers are often put in a position of shifting from being an expert and telling teams what to do to some new approach that is not clear to them. They may not know exactly how to help a self-organizing team. I call this clumsy management. It is not that they are doing it on purpose, they just happen to be bumping into things when trying to help. Managers are sometimes told to “stay out of the team’s way”, so they end up disengaged and not sure how to reengage. The fact that a manager may not be sure how to help a self-organizing team does not mean that help is not needed. Read More