Friday, December 17, 2021

Agile in the Ether

After hearing good things about it for years, and failing to get one of the limited spots at its lean coffee events for almost as long, I was excited to finally be at Agile in the Ether last week. Here's a few aggregated notes from the excellent conversation. 

How to encourage non-digital stakeholders to understand the value of discovery and outcomes over outputs?

  • The business has scaled quickly and is large and stakeholders just want features
  • They don't talk about problems and give people space to offer solutions
  • Help them to think about how they experience the world outside work
  • Lay out the risks/benefits of switching to incremental devlopment
  • Get an ally who is respected (by them) to support your case
  • Show business which haven't adapted, e.g. Blockbuster
  • Show business which have adapted, e.g. McDonalds
  • Let stakeholders observe interviews with users to understand their priorities
  • Don't use the word "agile" or "digital"
  • ... instead say "de-risk this proposition", "build it so we can rollback if needed"
  • ... talk about the benefits of agile development not the practices


How do I get an organisation to value (agile) communities of practice?

  • Some managers just don't get it
  • They'll say "you need to do this in personal learning and development time"
  • Do it in stealth mode; just call it a meeting!
  • Ask the Community what they find valuable, and get them to talk about it
  • Find stories of success and share them
  • Some people think CoP is just soft and fluffy and not delivering
  • Managers perhaps don't care about the personal side of work, just outputs
  • Can you make the managers look good so that they will support it
  • Talk about it in manager-friendly terms e.g. ROI, break down silos, spread good practices, ...
  • Talk about disadvantages of not having CoPs, e.g. slower onboarding
  • Use some specific example of good practice to convene a group, then keep it going


Mentoring, coaching and team-building in a team where members are constantly changing. Any tips on how to keep stability?

  • In this case the team is around 8 people (perm and contractors, mixed disciplines)
  • Particularly hard when people are leaving (personal and org change)
  • Usually tends to stabilise, but not this time so constantly restarting
  • Pairing/mobbing can introduce new people quickly
  • Be alert to workplace loneliness
  • People can tend to go quiet, so be hypervigilant
  • Use CoP to build a shared culture across teams so that in-company movement is easier
  • Focus on some small thing together and complete it to build team spirit
  • Don't wait for a time when things just stabilise before starting something
  • One of us had used a team stability metric
  • ... the number of sprints in a row with the same people on the team
  • ... found that it's correlated to happiness
  • ... but now worried that it's now become a marker of pride
  • ... and teams are not changing enough


How to revive a flagging test community of practice?

  • Lots of people have left, including the CoP lead
  • New people started and are not so enthusiastic
  • The CoP used to be brilliant, but it's now a shadow of its former self
  • Drew Pontikis talked about letting the CoP end when its energy has run out
  • Change things up e.g. 1, 2
  • Communities are so reliant on the people involved. What are their needs?
  • Treat it like a new team; have a new kick off
  • Fit timing to other participant commitments to make it easier to attend
  • CoP need not be the only community meetings, e.g. pairs, random coffees, etc
  • It will take a while to get restarted
  • It's natural for there to be cycles of energy
  • Favour quality over quantity 

Image: Wikipedia

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