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.

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