What happens when the flow of water in a river goes stagnant?
Algae builds up, Mosquitoes start breeding and it starts to smell bad!
Likewise in our teams what happens when the flow goes stagnant?
Waste builds up, Technical debt starts breeding and it starts to smell bad!
Three things we use in our teams to keep the flow going!
Stop starting and start finishing – We often believe that being busy is the sign of an intelligent team member. But to the contrary a focused team member who starts and finishes a task at hand is much more valuable to the team goals.
Limit work in progress – A lot of us believe that we are great at multitasking but we are not. If you want to test yourself try this experiment: Multitasking is Evil
Satisfy reasonable Work Item Aging – Something like 1/3rd of 1/4th of your Sprint length is a reasonable WIA metric to follow. If a task needs more that 1/3rd of the Sprint length the team member is struggling to complete it and needs help.
What if the goal was to make the airplane that flew the farthest?
We decided to do two Sprints to see how innovative the teams get in creating and flying airplanes.
The airplanes were being made in a garden and to be flown in the field.
A few observations from the first Sprint:
Most teams practiced in the garden and not in the field.
If the plane was to fly in the field then the practice should be happening in the field. Same thing applies for the teams delivering software. It is not enough if the software runs locally. It needs to run in the production environment
Most teams had a classically folded airplane
This is completely fine. Sometimes it is not the WHAT but the HOW you fly the plane. More later 😉
A few observations from the Retrospective:
Most teams identified wind as the culprit
However, wind was a constant for all teams. All teams had to battle with wind. The trick was to be able be patient and catch the wind when it blew in the right direction.
One team asked to be able to research the internet for new airplane designs
I found that an interesting request. We decided to keep it simple and not have any team research on the internet. However in real life, researching to find better designs and learn from history would definitely have improved the chances of designing a better airplane
A few observations from the second Sprint:
Most teams did not invest time on how to throw the airplane
Building an airplane is one thing. Knowing how to fly it is another. Understanding the angle of release, arm movement and follow through would tremendously increase the chances of the airplane flying further
One team did get help from a member outside the team
Sometimes a outside perspective helps in coming up with a new design or a new throw of the airplane. This applies to projects too. Just explaining the issue to another team member in a coffee break and getting some ideas can help your idea fly further
Are you stuck with the WHAT in your Sprints or are you flying with the HOW?