- Assign specific testers to specific development teams. No calling people resources; that allows managers to treat people like resources and plug-and-play them. You need to get rock-solid teams together. Once you have teams together, you can name them.
- Name teams so the teams reflect the feature groups they work on. What does an email product do? It gets email, it sorts email, it deletes, it forwards, it creates new mailboxes, and so on. The eight feature teams had to be named for the feature areas: Platform for the general features, Sort, Delete, Forward. There were two teams who worked on Platform. They were called Platform 1 and Platform 2. At one point, someone suggested they call themselves Thing1 and Thing2 from the Dr. Seuss book.
- Make sure you have enough product owners so they can develop roadmaps for each feature area. With a roadmap, the teams know where they are going. Even more importantly, the architects know where the program is going.
- Architects think and provide just enough guidance ahead. In a small project, the architecture can probably evolve with the project. In a larger program, that risk is too large. You have too many people developing in parallel for the architecture to evolve on its own with no guidance. But I do not mean there should a Master Architect Who Knows All Handing Down the Architecture From On High. NO NO NO.I want the architect who is a working member of the development team, who also is part of an architecture community of practice team, who curates the architecture, who guides the business value of the architecture. I do not want Big Architecture Up Front. But Thinking Up Front? Sure, that’s a great idea. Stuck on only one idea? Bad. Willing to spike an idea? Great. Willing to play in a sandbox and debate several ideas? Great. I wrote about this before, in How Agile Architects Lead.
- Decide what done means for every feature. You must have acceptance criteria for each feature. What does that mean? You need a product owner present for each team. You still need the conversations with each team to discuss what done means. Especially with a geographically distributed team, you need the conversation when you create the backlog at the beginning of the iteration.
- The US development teams had trouble planning their iterations with their testers, because of the time zone differences with the testers. So, they asked their product owners if the product owner would write more than just a few phrases on the cards, because that would help them get through the iteration planning meeting faster. Someone was going to get up early or stay up late, and either way, someone was going to suffer. It made more sense to have a little bit more preparation than less sleep.
- Decide to do continuous integration and stick with it. Especially if you know you have technical debt and you don’t want to create more, you have to do continuous integration now. That prevents more technical debt.
- I have recommended to some teams that they have one-week iterations so that they stop the estimation nonsense and make their stories small. The point of estimation is so that you have an idea of what you can do as a team and not commit to more than that. The idea is that if you know what it takes to make your stories small, you will.Instead, we have all these crazy rituals around estimation and management tracking velocity of all things. (Yes, I’ve been drafting this post for a long time, and I wrote Why Does Management Care About Velocity? last week.) You know, velocity is a little like weight. Only you and your doctor need to know your weight. If you are healthy, you are fine. If you are not, you need to change something.If your team velocity is not healthy, you, as a team, need to change it. But, your management has no business butting its head in. Only you can change it.
- When you limit the iteration length, you tend to have the team swarm around a story. This is a tendency, not a given. If I really was the Empress of the Universe, I would decree this, but I’m not, so I won’t. If you want to decrease technical debt, or even eliminate it on your program, explain that your team will only work on one story at a time until that story is done. That story will be polished and gleaming. Fast. You will not have to worry about what kinds of testing will be done. All if it will be done.
- Explicitly discuss what you will automate for testing and when. In a program, I assume we will have automated system tests first. I assume we will do exploratory tests later. That’s because if you don’t start building something for test automation when you start the program and refactor as you proceed, you can never catch up. I assume every time we fix a defect, we will have an automated test for it. I also assume we build these assumptions into how we develop :-)
A FREE guide for agile teams.
Are you running retrospectives regularly? Perhaps you run retrospectives once a week, or fortnightly. Do you feel like you could be getting more out of your retrospectives and fuelling continuous improvement in your teams? You may already find retrospectives valuable, but suspect there are ways of making them better.