racheljoi.com

a transition to agile

I joined a team at work that has moved to agile from waterfall. It was a high-performing team in waterfall, and now the team is figuring out how to get that same level of performance while doing agile. It’s been a struggle. I wasn’t with the team before, so I’ve only seen them in this transition phase. There’s lots of talk like, “This is how we’ve always done it, and we’ve been just fine,” and “We don’t need to be told how to do our jobs.” People are frustrated, and those of us who are trying to be cheerleaders and evangelists get shouted down frequently.

One of the principles that has fallen by the wayside is the idea of face-to-face communication being the best way to get things done. We are theoretically co-located. One guy works out of a different office, but the other 14 of us are in the same room. However, we all work from home on Fridays, and most people take a second day at home too, on different days, and then when the weather is bad, people work from home, and if their kid is sick, they work from home, and if their elbow hurts, they work from home, and on and on. Only for first and last days of the sprint is everyone in the same room. When the idea of video calls has been raised, the response has been swift and negative. Emails, IMs, and the occasional Skype call are said to be sufficient, and the suggestion that more information can be transmitted by being able to see facial cues has been deemed irrelevant. They say, “Our communication has always been good, why do we need to change it?” like I mentioned above. (note: voice deliberately passive in this paragraph to obfuscate my own embarrassment)

We’re struggling to figure out how to make our testing the most effective. On the one side, there are a couple who are all about automation, who see it as a point of pride that they haven’t touched a mobile device (which is what we test) for a long time. On the other side, there are people who don’t want anything to do with automation, who don’t want to do any kind of programming. And in the middle, there I am. I think automation is a means to an end. That if you have good enough automation, you can spend more time touching devices and doing session-based exploratory testing, to try to find bugs that would be difficult or impossible to find with automation. I think our coach basically believes this too, but the automation enthusiasts only hear that we need more automation, not that it is meant to facilitate better manual testing. It’s almost a culture war.

I guess that one of the effects (benefits?) of agile is that you’re always going to be a little annoyed, a little frustrated, a little driven to (hopefully) improve. It comes from interacting with people so regularly, from needing to rely on working as a team. Differences in approach, in opinion, in work ethic, all come to the forefront, where they can theoretically be discussed. Perhaps one of the next phases of our agile development development (ha, see what I did there?) is to have those open and honest conversations without devolving into raised voices and accusations. That’s a difficult step that requires a lot of maturity from everyone involved, and even then, emotions and egos can still impair the productivity of those conversations.

One thought on “a transition to agile

  1. Annette Ash

    Love this Rachel, you are spot on. Agile will not fix the problems, it only brings to surface the problems that have been there all along. It is up the the individuals the determine how to fix or if they want to fix these issue. When honesty and trust come into play then that is when teams can start to become high performing.

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