Enthusiasm is key

I started a new (short-term) contract on Thursday and I’m very pleasantly surprised to see how keen people are! The company took the decision to “go Agile” only a couple of weeks ago and they’ve jumped in with both feet. They’re committing a lot of time and money to this transition, but even more important than that is the enthusiasm I’ve seen in the three teams I’m working with – people are eager to learn and experiment, which means the transition is a lot more likely to succeed.

I’m going to try to blog about how things go – the exercises and games we run, tools we use, etc. and how well they work. Obviously what works for one company (or even one team) may not work for another, but I think it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve with these three teams. (The company is forming more Scrum teams but I’m focused on the first three teams right now.)

When I joined, the teams were on day 4 of a 2 week sprint. They already had a (partial) product backlog, with the top priority stories estimated; the teams each had committed to some stories and broken them down in to tasks; they had started doing daily stand up meetings (a.k.a. scrums) with each team member addressing the three key questions. The teams also have support responsibilities, which they are managing using Kanban boards. Most surprisingly everyone seems to understand how this all works and (on the whole) are on top of updating both the support and story tasks.

As the new boy on the team(s), I spent some time sitting in each team room and just observing how the teams performed. I also ran an exercise loosely based on the Billboard Game – I say loosely because I’ve not run it before so I followed the spirit if not the letter of the game. It was a great way to get to know the team members, and even they knew each other fairly well before most people said they learned something new about their colleagues.

I’m really looking forward to next week – we’re going to do a mid-sprint review with each team to see if they feel they’re on track to complete all their committed stories by the end of this sprint. I’m also going to meet regularly with the Scrum Masters so we can share thoughts and learnings regarding Agile; as an example, the teams are approaching a particular problem (tracking the progress of dev tasks through code review, test, etc.) in different ways (separate tasks vs columns on the task board), so it’ll be interesting to see which works best for the teams – it may be they all chose to use the same method in the next sprint or maybe they’ll continue to test different approaches.