Agility before Agile

Having spent the last 6 years or so, mostly project managing things digital, web and mobile we selectively adopted some artefacts and ceremonies from Kanban and Scrum. However neither the organisation nor clients were ready to fully adopt Agile culture.

Meanwhile Agile has continued to find its way into traditionally conservative organisations including banking, accelerating in my opinion as Product Mindset becomes recognised.

There was agility before the Agile manifesto….

In my case, as a Studio Manager (over 20 years ago) a few things we got right in 1998 which I feel remain pertinent to two Agile priorities:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

We certainly recognised and valued staff who could work in multi-function teams.  We sought designers with technical aptitude and developers with an interest in the creative and aimed for some overlap in skill-sets. Typically we structured projects with a designer, developer and account manager. Any of whom might be project lead, based on the nature of the project or it’s stage in the life-cycle. i.e. a very creative project may well be lead by a designer, functionally complex projects lead by a developer and content driven projects typically by an account manager. Whoever lead would have the bulk of contact with the client.

At that time,  laptops were rare and hot-desking impractical. Each person having a workstation often significantly customised, big and heavy.

We did however take the opportunity to redesign our studio and it’s furniture to facilitate quick and easy team flexibility. Instead of benches of workstations, we had specially designed furniture arranged in clusters of four. Within a cluster, the centre space was kept clear and computer screens were arranged to the outer edge enabling team members to easily converse and view screen content with a slight turn of the screen. Workstations consisted of desktop computer and monitor both on top of a customised mobile pedestal set of drawers. Changing teams was simply a matter of unplugging from the network and wheeling the workstation as a single piece to the next cluster.

Two clusters of 4, ready for workstations
Wine and beer for the opening of the new studio

I haven’t found an environment quite like it since. Of course, laptops and WIFI make the ‘wheelie-workstation’ less necessary. I remain proud of the work we did in that studio, my colleagues and the way we worked together.

Team ideas raise development opportunities

A video, demonstrating a positive development environment. As I shift my mindset to ‘Product’, it also shows significant investment in the team’s knowledge and instincts as a source of product development ideas, company wide and how that benefits all concerned.

  • Agile makes it possible: (from 2 minutes) Transforming to best practice and an agile development culture improved code quality and development flexibility
  • Hack sprint: (from 6 minutes)
    • Every 5th sprint is a ‘Hack Sprint’, ‘hack’ ideas are put forward, teams formed and concrete demo’s built
    • Demos are presented back and pitched for roadmap inclusion

How this approach contributes to a positive culture of continuous improvement is clear from the video; company, product and personal.

Summer 2018

A note to self, looking back on my last post to see what actually was achieved since.

Step 1 – “Get some tooling” – CHECK. Applied to ageing personal web stuff.

Step 2 – “Read up Jeff Patton’s User Story Mapping” – CHECK. The key catchphrases stand up no matter what: “Build the right product”, “Shared understanding” and adding my own twist “develop the greatest effect soonest”. Definitely worth a second read and reference.

Step 3 – “Play with Docker” – PARTIAL CHECK. Our lead developer has built an excellent Docker based infrastructure at work, bringing greater reliability and efficiency. My home kit isn’t compatible yet, so Vagrant will suffice until I update.

Steps 4 and 5 – We did set about using JIRA, Confluence and Bitbucket and bringing legacy projects to them

Moving on from my last employer, my next steps are to ensure I dedicate more time to:

  • Family
  • Exploring new tech – AR and VR of particular interest as it gains momentum as Oculus Go continues the process of bringing it mainstream
  • Gaining more product management experience
  • Photography – In camera, editing and restoration – creacog on Flickr
  • Tidy up this blog – so much has changed in the last 6 years

Then possibly freelance until finding the next permanent role.

New year 2018

Personally speaking, 2018 is going to be a year of getting at least some Agile and DevOps adopted at work.

Step 1 – Get some tooling… Kicked off with Vagrant and commenced updating the brain from my previous php5 use to 7. So far so good.

Step 2 – Read up Jeff Patton’s User Story Mapping- Which does seem to stand up to it’s strap-line: “Discover the whole story, build the right product”. From reading this, “Shared understanding” will be my new catchphrase for the year.
[amazon_link asins=’1491904909′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’creacogtheblo-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’5fedbbe4-e82c-11e7-ac14-0b4315280c86′]

Step 3 – Have a play with Docker…. first problem… otherwise trusty old mid 2009 Mac Book Pro:

$ sysctl kern.hv_support
kern.hv_support: 0

So there’ll be no Docker practice on this machine.

Step 4 – Introduce work to some supporting tools: (JIRA, Confluence, Bitbucket)

Step 5 – Start using this stuff – Plenty of legacy work projects to migrate, and a couple of home projects.

This might be the excuse needed to justify updating my otherwise very long-lived Macs.