Practicing Evolutionary Management at Trainline: The Journey to Evolutionary-Teal and Beyond…

The gong went off with a humming twang.

Around the table, 20 people sat staring. Our agile web team had kicked off many sprint planning meetings, but none like this. As the sound of the Tibetan meditation bowl receded into silence, nervous impulse rushed to fill the space – fidgeting, murmuring, exchanging glances. After 30 seconds or so, this noise died down too, settling into a deeper silence still. Once another half-minute had passed, I rang the gong again.

We then proceeded to have one of our most efficient sprint planning sessions in weeks. We even finished 15 minutes early. Not a bad return on investment for one minute of silence. Continue reading

Agile and Employee Engagement

i-love-my-job

In our newly formed Agile Community of Excellence, we discussed the topics of Empowerment, Motivation and Engagement.

This is a fascinating area for me and, if borne in mind, is a subject which I think really helps to make any Agile effort a really effective one. Employee engagement matters and a worldwide Gallup poll in 2013 was an indication that no company should be complacent on this.

Empowerment and motivation – more specifically – intrinsic motivation – are key to employee engagement. At Trainline, we have already embraced Agile for lots of good reasons and I believe that employee engagement is one of those good reasons.

So how can we make a positive impact on employee engagement? Below I will share with you three perspectives and consider how Agile principles support these. Continue reading

Deadlines are not Agile! Are they?

deadline

 

Rage against deadlines

How often have you found yourself set an ‘impossible deadline’ and been left asking: “Why the heck am I having to break my neck to hit it? Where did it come from? Who came up with the date?”

Pretty often, huh? I know it’s happened to me a lot. I regularly see people getting very angry about being set a deadline. The typical response is to froth at the mouth and curse “the management”. Continue reading

Better collaboration: Agile and Improv

IMPROVISATION

whose-line-is-it-anyway

Collaboration and creativity are vital for effective Agile Teams. If you’ve ever watched “Whose Line is it Anyway?” on the TV, you will have seen improvisation (“improv”) in action. It is all about people working together in a mutually trusting atmosphere to co-create something new and surprising: the sum of the collective imaginations of those involved and something which could not have been known beforehand. Continue reading

Better estimates by embracing uncertainty

Uncertainty

Existential philosophers tell us that uncertainty is a fundamental given of existence.   But uncertainty is also something which we often find to be undesirable and we seem to spend a lot of time trying to rid ourselves of it.

Friedrich-NietzscheBut often the solution is not to rid ourselves of uncertainty.  Instead, it is to embrace it.  As Nietzsche said:

“Not doubt, certainty is what drives one insane.”

I am sure that a lot of software development teams will relate to this quote when considering estimation – that great attempt at removing uncertainty. Continue reading

Agile Testing – In Search of Enlightenment

Review of the Agile Connexions Meetup event hosted at Trainline. A presentation by Schalk Cronjé on Agile Testing.

meetup-at-trainline-agile-testingTesting is an ever-changing discipline that has been disrupted and reworked after the dawn of Agile development. Traditional testing has made way for leaner, more focused alternatives- where it was once relegated to being a post-development step in Waterfall, testing has since been redefined as an integral part of Agile development and adapted to suit the faster pace of Continuous Delivery. Old practices have been re-examined and changed beyond recognition… but is Agile testing doing anything new? Is it delivering value, or is it too focused on process and management instead? Continue reading

Be Afraid

Be afraid.

It’s OK. You are allowed to be afraid. No need to ask permission for it. We’ll worship the gods of Agile, and we won’t even have to work and push and move to do things, we can just point at our collective fear and say “we didn’t have permission”. We won’t feel right about it, but that’s OK. It’s not like we’ll tell anyone. Be so afraid you don’t care, be afraid to move jobs, be a fearful cog in a fearful machine, ground into meek submission. Continue reading

Pushing back – lean thinking

Sumo Konishiki by Raymond Kennedy 2009

Photo by Raymond Kennedy 2009

It’s a very hard thing, telling your CTO you think he or she is wrong – but it’s worth it!

Let me tell you a little story – of a time I told someone he was wrong, did the right thing, and where we are now.

Once upon a time, there was a developer called Alex. He was quite short, not terribly adventurous as developers go, but capable. Here’s Alex, developing a little feature to go on the website. Hello Alex. Alex is happy, because the feature he’s developing is rather useful, and will earn the company money – we know because this feature was tested first, and it did these things when we tested it. Alex likes this. Alex likes that it’s good all round and he especially likes that we already know that.

But what’s this? Alex’s CTO has sent him an e-mail, with some changes to the component that haven’t been tested, whether or not they are the right thing. See Alex get sad. See Alex cry. See Alex think. Think, Alex, think. “How can we do this?” thinks Alex. Oh Alex. Poor Alex. See Alex go home, dejected. Continue reading

Fear is Waterfall

The terror of owning a decisionThe big selling point of Agile is the fast return on investment it promises. But what excites me most about Agile is its emphasis on people – agility done well injects humanity back into activities which Waterfall has made bureaucratic and devoid of care. In short, care does not scale.  Waterfall’s “inhumanity” comes from the command-and-control paradigm. Teams are not empowered to make the best decisions based on their know-how. Instead this is taken out of the hands of the team and decided by others who are not actually going to get their hands dirty.

Agility is equated with empowerment, but how is empowerment achieved? Continue reading