Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why self organized teams after all ?

I read and reread the Agile Manifesto today. Things which stood out were

"Individuals and interactions over processes and tools "

"Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done."

"The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams."

"At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly."

People often forget some of these things quite easily. What people remember is "frequent delivery of software", "deliver working software" etc.. This is common among new managers trying to understand Agile , because what is popular about Agile in the market is iterative development, and rapid delivery of software. Sadly people forget that its the team which ultimately delivers the software, and for an Agile team, the things quoted above are indispensable.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The emotional wall

One of the key things a project manager has to do in a team is listen. Listen to people's aspirations, frustrations and expectations. Over a period of time a PM has a mental model of his team which could almost be like a matrix below

Avishek - Sad
Apoorv - Could not be Happier
Rohini - Just about ok

A lot of times a PM has to make decisions considering the above mental model, which is equivalent to keeping the teams emotional state in mind. A good PM will do well in making
these decisions, but then the mental model is still in the PM's mind and not really with the team.

And if the team strives towards self organizing itself, this poses a roadblock. We conducted a simple experiment to solve this wherein we created a wall of peoples names, and asked everyone to stick one Post-It sticky. The stickies were of 3 colors Red - Sad, Orange - Indifferent, Green - Happy.

Now , if a team member sticks an orange or a Red sticky,she also writes the reason for it on the sticky itself. (As long as the reason can be shared with the team). The idea was to update this wall whenever we felt like and see how long it lives.We just called it, the emotional wall !

Slowly I saw the team questioning each other on the color of their post-it. Karthik had a red sticky because he was working on bugs all the time. This made Kiran , who was working on a story to volunteer to fix bugs so that Karthik could be a bit more happier. There were lot of similar instances and it was fun to watch the team take interest in how their coworkers are feeling, and trying to solve the problems within themselves. Yet another experiment in self organizing.