March 14, 2018

Collaboration hygiene, and the dangers of being good at things

I’m lucky enough to work with different teams on a regular basis. In some cases, these teams have been doing scrum for years. These teams have become highly proficient when it comes to the events in Scrum. They always have Done software to be inspected at the Sprint Review. They have excellent, deep and actionable conversations during their Sprint Retrospectives. Their Daily Scrums are a sight to behold!

One team I’ve recently started working with would fit this description perfectly. They’re really good at Scrum! But I had an interesting conversation with a Development Team member, and it went something like this:

Development Team Member (DTM): “I’m really not sure if we’re going to get this PBI all the way to Done before the end of the sprint”
Me: “Why’s that?”
DTM: “Well, I’ve just started coding it, and I think it’s going well… but the integration environment is down again, so I haven’t been able to kick off our automated regression tests. I guess I should bring that up as an impediment at the Daily Scrum tomorrow…

This reminded me how easy it can be for our successful habits and routines to undermine our goals. This person knew that if they brought the issue up at the next Daily Scrum, it would absolutely get resolved. They’re on a great team! Someone would 100% step up and help solve the problem.

But here’s the thing: tomorrow is far away. The problem needs attention, now. The events described in Scrum are not the ONLY instances during which we collaborate. We need to be doing that constantly, always looking for opportunities to help each other, and to ask for help when we need it. 

Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

Let's look at another aspect of our lives: You've just finished a large salad for lunch, and you have a Big Important Meeting later in the day. You probably want to make sure you don't have any salad stuck to your teeth. Do you wait until later that evening, when you usually clean your teeth? Of course not! You're going to check for any foreign objects right away! Duh!

This seems like it should be common sense - and yet the discussion I described above happens time and time again. We need to remember to practice good hygiene when it comes to working together - at all times!