Sep 5, 2012

Viking laws for tech teams, part 5: agree on important points

This post is part of the "Viking laws for tech teams" series.

"Agree on important points": this sounds like a no-brainer, right? Obviously, a team won't get much done if members keep arguing and disagreeing over the same issues over and over again. Nothing to write about, then.

Really? Quick exercise: ask each team member to describe the team's operation in 5 bullet points. How many different items do you get? 5 total or 5 times the number of team members? Do the items look like the Agile Manifesto or like a checklist for code reviews? By the way, when was the last time the team actually discussed what these items should be? 

So item #0 should always be: "Talk to each other, goddammit!". No, the code is not the documentation. No, it's not enough to send e-mails (it's actually the last thing you should do). No, it's not enough to assign tickets. You guys need to talk face to face (that's IRL to you Gen Z). And debate. And argue, if needed. Whatever it takes to come to a clear and shared agreement on WTF the subject was.

Short, frequent discussions are the way to go. You don't HAVE to do a formal Scrum daily meeting, but starting the day with a quick exchange of information goes a long way. If nothing else, it creates an culture of sharing ideas, raising issues, asking for help, etc. If your only opportunity to do any of this is during that dreadful 3-hour long "Weekly Project Review" (you know what I'm talking about), then doom on you.

Okay, now that we've established that you need to talk to each other, what should you agree on? Well, that's probably the first thing you guys should talk about :) Here are a few pointers:
  1. what is the role of the team in the company?
  2. who are its customers?
  3. what do they expect from the team? Ask them!
  4. external input required by the team: what? how? how often? from whom?
  5. team deliverables: what? how? how often? to whom?
'lo and behold! 5 items :)

That IS enough. If you know who you are and what's expected from you, all other decisions will follow. Tools, methodology, resources, roles, etc.

"We're the lead drakkar of our clan. Our mission is to raid the Eastern coast of Scotland for food, livestock and slaves. Loot quotas are set every semester by the King himself and he expects no less than one delivery per month. We're free to choose our own targets: a list is agreed on by the clan before setting off to sea, the actual target is picked by the crew at the last minute depending of weather and tide conditions".

Sure beats your crappy corporate mission statement, huh?

Please share your comments or anecdotes. See you next time.

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