The last couple of weeks were incredibly intense for me. It´s been a long time since I was returning home doing mentoring exhausted to the level I barely could talk. In this case, even my natural ‘workaholics’ was of no help.
It was my honor to work with a fresh team formed a just couple of months ago – Agile Pilots from T-Systems, Telekom IT department, which has been granted with unique opportunity to show what is Agile capable of in huge international corporation.
Entering their workspace was the experience itself. Desks were not aligned in rows. They were positioned in a circle the way it was possible to see every computer display. The reason was not to control, but cooperation. When it was necessary, people just slid on the chair and they were instantly sitting front of teammate’s display. No meeting rooms, no maneuvers to get people together :) Action and Reaction.
And the stickies all around the place. No, surprisingly I’m not addicted to them despite all these years. But these stickies were like a radiation. They captured requirements, tasks, designs, agreements, and ideas. It was like they were asking for more and more to be added. Standing in the middle of the room you could literary suck the full history of the team. From current status of the project to problems of everyday life.
That lady and these guys were like a sponge. They were absorbing the knowledge, picking the inspirations and solutions they might need in near future. It was amazing not just observe that deep interest, but what more (in contrary to many other teams) immediate application to the real life. Sometimes even in the same day.
The manager was unbelievable too. He was not messing around. Opposite. He communicated with Scrum Master and Product Owner. He was supporting them instead of trying to take control. Lack of Command and control caused responsibility for client´s satisfaction. Maybe that manager has limited knowledge about Agile, but he hasn’t needed more. The level of his agile knowledge was enough to satisfy the team, client, and upper management as well. He cared more about the result, not process. It was quite interesting, considering the fact, that just passing the reception in this company takes you 15 minutes of your time.
What makes this particular team so different?
Why there was no sabotage, passivity?
- ScrumMaster was assigned for full time. Full focus on problem-solving, keeping eye on the process, organizing and support for the team.
- A small multidisciplinary team, selected in though hiring process.
- They were willing to work on that particular product. They wanted to work Agile. Some of them already knew agile, some not. But they didn’t want to follow the strong, formal process.
- Strong support from the manager who is oriented on goal, not processes. No delegation, taking his own part of the responsibility.
- Customer represented by Product Owner who knows what it takes. At least on the level of market needs.
- ScrumMaster experienced with team management. He applied all he learned about teamwork. The real work and support.
- The lady and guys wanted to join the team. They all had a true interest in creating a common identity, common values. They didn’t want just be another separate unit of people.
- Product Owner had experience from projects driven by agile principles.
- The team was allowed to change the working environment like office layout etc. A unique experience in corporate world. All these challenges with work and fire safety, you name it…
- People valued the opportunity to be a part of that team. They were selected among many candidates. They should fit also ’emotionally’. It was not the selection of just another expert. They were searching for a new team member.
- The team is actively searching for new practices which could help. In literature, blogs, discussions of Agile community.
- Some of the team members have been in touch with Agile in their professional past. This time they appreciated new, stricter rules negotiated in advance. They were really fighting for discipline.
- They were not afraid to measure the progress and velocity. Not just measure. Use the numbers. For them, not for management.
- They spent the first couple of weeks of the project together abroad at the client site. That was the time to form a team. Daily life. Not just working life but also leisure time together. They knew each other well in short time. Strengths and weaknesses.
- Sprints were not just about work. It involved the fun as well. They named the iterations according to the planes. First one was Icarus. They told the story about the plane and why they selected this particular name. The customer was looking forward seeing a new demo and new story about another plane.
- The team had selected its name. It has its own identity. Not given. Built from inside.
- The team was not a group of superheroes who could have complicated working environment because of the pride.
- They were supporting knowledge sharing. Simply through board “I know and I will share” and “I don’t know and I want to know”.
- Product Owner cared not just about a product. He has interested also in people. About their point of view to the product, their way of work, their needs.
- Scrum Master implemented practices one by one. Not all at the same time.
- Product Owner provided appreciation to the team.
- Support teams from abroad were reacting in the measure of minutes. They were willing to help as soon as they were able.
Does it sound like an ideal situation for the adaption of Agile? Yes, it does, I admit. But it is a reality, what more, in the corporation, I wouldn’t believe it could implement Agile one day.
They get there the hard way. From the very beginning of team formation. And improvement is not over, it continues….