21 June 2008

Defining Moment

When coaching a team new to Agile, you're always looking for a defining moment. This is a point in time when the proverbial light bulb goes on over the team's head about not only how they should be doing Agile practices, but why. It roughly equates to the Transforming Idea in Virginia Satir's Change Model, and is a reasonably good indicator that the team is about to move from the Chaos stage to Integration and Practice.

This past week I was giving an introductory workshop to a team I'll be coaching for the next couple of months, and I used Jean Tabaka's Doggy Day Care Brochure example as a simulation of an Agile project. To my utter astonishment, this team had that defining moment within the first 30-45 minutes of a 90-minute exercise. The project planning was carried out with one person as the Customer, a couple of devlopers as Testers, and the actual Customer, a manager and a business analyst as developers. Everyone latched onto the concept, and immediately liked using index cards for planning. During "implementation" on a whiteboard, the developers noticed that their estimates were sometimes wrong, the testers found some implementation issues (including an edge case in the pricing!), the customer realized that a new story was needed. For the second iteration, someone who had to step out to another meeting returned and joined in as a second Customer. This really streamlined the process of feeding work to the developers.

During the retrospective, the person initially acting as the Customer highlighted that she felt overwhelmed and that she was a major bottleneck, which is something that many have pointed out as a weakness or risk area of Agile. It was interesting, though, to see someone experience that issue so acutely within a simple exercise!

I usually hope to see a defining moment during the first or second iteration, and certainly don't expect to see it in the initial training! The upshot of all this is that I believe this team is destined for success in their transition to Agile.

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