See Your Agile Collaboration Traps

See Your Agile Collaboration Traps

In honor of the impending Create Your Successful Agile Project book release, I decided to send you a four-part series about agile traps. Yes, one for each piece of the subtitle. This one is the collaboration trap.

Here are three common collaboration traps:

  • Your team is a component team. (The team members implement across the architecture, not through it.)
  • Everyone on your team is a narrow expert.
  • The developers and testers don’t work together, but rather in staggered iterations.

There are more collaboration traps, but I’ll address just these three here. One of the root causes is when the team or managers focus on the individual’s piece, not the feature through the system.

Agile approaches work because they help the team focus to deliver a flow of finished features. If you have any of these traps, consider these possibilities:

  1. Ask people to work together.
  2. Measure finished features, not effort.
  3. Visualize all the work.

Ask people to work together.

If you have component teams, consider asking several teams to collaborate as a larger team to finish features. You might remember a blog post, How Long Are Your Iterations? Part 2. When teams start to succeed finishing features, they build momentum. That momentum helps them see their system and what prevents them from finishing other work. You might also like the pairing, swarming and mobbing post to see how to help people work together.

Your team might need a person from across the organization or it might need several other functional groups to finish. One way to see what the team needs is to measure finished features.

Measure finished features.

I like small stories that a team can complete in one day, maybe two days. (I work in 15-minute chunks and I have a high rate of throughput, completed work.)

Your team might not be able to create small stories yet, so they still feel as if they have a ton of work to finish. Regardless of whether your team uses relative estimation or hourly estimation, don’t measure progress. Measure finished work.

If your team measures finished work, they are more likely to collaborate on the work. That helps all three of the team problems above: component teams, experts, and staggered work.

Visualize all the work.

When people on the same “team” work in staggered iterations, they suffer from the Productive vs. Busy problem. The people discover they can’t depend on when each other will deliver their part. The team has trouble delivering finished features. It’s a mess.

Instead of using staggered iterations, consider asking all the team members to create a board to show where all the work is.  People may realize their work is in any of several states and that they have cycles inside a given state. When the team sees the states, they can decide what to do and when.

Each of these problems is an agile cultural or systemic problem. However, you'll see the problem appear as a collaboration problem.

Johanna's Books and Workshops

If you have seen collaboration traps, check out my new book, Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. The book is in the final stages of print layout. The ebook is available now, but the print book will take another couple of weeks. I wrote the book so you can decide about your agile approach, for your team and your context.

I can finally announce my writing workshops with super early bird pricing:

These workshops start in January. Email me with questions. I would love to see you there.

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Here are links you might find useful:
My Books
Workshops I offer
Managing Product Development Blog
Create an Adaptable Life
* Johanna’s Fiction.

Till next time,

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