Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Environment and the Desire to work

In the last 2-3 years in my career, I have been working mainly as an Agile coach in organizations that were transforming to some sort of agile delivery framework. This means that the default mindset of working on these organizations has been complex, multilevel, old and in general slow. As an example, it takes about 1 month, 9 people, 80 emails and a couple of form requests, to add a column on a table. As an agile coach, this is where I find inspiration to help and bring a change, improve something and someone's daily job routine.
But it has a toll on me. As an extrovert, I am running out of external energy to feed me and keep me positive. I like to do things. I like to see people working on exciting stuff, being innovative and motivated to come up with the best idea possible. I like to be pushed to my limits and test my creativity, my energy, my skills and eventually, keep me energized. None of these has been at the right dosage for me recently.
And then I heard of "Give camp". A friend of mine is part of this and mentioned it to me. It is practically a bunch of developers, project managers, UX designers, copywriters, coordinators, etc that volunteer a weekend to build digital solutions for non-profit organizations. I thought that is a very cool opportunity for geeks to shine and show how valuable they are! So I registered.

6 people built a website from scratch (Wordpress) over the weekend (Friday evening till Sunday afternoon)!! There were some tables and columns created, but didn't take nearly as long as I have been seeing lately. On top of that, we also had time to have a break and go visit a submarine that was right beside the venue. 2 developers, 2 product owners (from the non-profit organization), 1 project manager and then a part time copywriter and a part time designer. We worked, we laughed, we made friends, we discussed and we loved what we did! It was all for a good cause at the end. Go see it :

What this weekend reminded me, was the power of a small team that has the right access to the right tools and that works closely together. "Small animals move faster than big ones". This is so important when you think about delivering often and small batches. One of the core concepts of Agile delivery. Any other person added to that team, would have brought more delays than help. Any more process than a white board with stickies moving from ToDo to Done would have been adding delays and annoyance. There were a couple of times when we needed "specialists" like someone that understood well the hosting tricks or working on htaccess redirects. We asked them to drop by our desk for a while, help up, thank them and off they went. 2 Product owners were constantly being asked to prioritize the backlog and that helped keeping everyone on track and focused. At the end, they would take a look at what was done and give the ok to move the sticky to Done or not.

Why scale agile? It is so beautiful when it's small, fast, lean and valuable.
I came back to work on Monday and looked at my emails waiting for someone that waited for someone to approve someone to push a button. I didn't know these people. They were all remote, and they were called "resources assigned to my project". I do not believe that these people had bad intentions and wanted to delay our delivery. It is the extras added in the process, in the necessary steps to accomplish a task, in the number of people that had to be involved to accomplish that task, in the managers that had to be added for approvals, and so on and so on. It is the big silos created with a narrow focus and all the paper work that surrounds work intake and work delivered by them. It is lack of motivation that comes when working on slow moving and sometime bureaucratic environments.

Can we de-scale corporations to small groups? Like the planes that move together and make a lot of fun air-tricks or combat (same goal) but are all independent units with a clear purpose and able to deliver fast.



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