For months I have been offering help to teams who might need it – coaching, training, facilitating, whatever. I can’t be dictatorial because that will just antagonise the team. So I need to get into the team and help them help themselves without stomping all over them. Mostly, though, the teams seem to think they don’t need any help.
But then, last week a lead developer came to talk to me. He had just joined a new team and had found ‘challenges’. We talked for a while and I made some notes. I suggested that we talk with his project manager about what I could do to help and yesterday the three of us got together for what proved to be an interesting conversation.
Possibly their biggest problem is that the sponsor/visionary of their project leads a very small team of very busy people. Even the most capable of them is not suitable for a Business Ambassador role, and the Sponsor himself doesn’t have the time to be involved that much. So, the Business Analyst is the proxy customer. A big risk. But one the PM assures me that the Sponsor is willing to take, partly because he cannot recruit any more people.
In their first timebox they failed to deliver even the Must Have requirements. One user story was estimated at 50 hours – yes, hours – but took more than double that, proving once again how estimating in hours is notoriously inaccurate at that level. And the story was too big anyway.
The team is not co-located either. One half of the team is at one end of the floor, the other half about as far away as possible without being outside. And the Project Manager himself is in the building next door. The developers and testers are also not sat together, although the PM did suggest it. The developers believe that sharing the scant domain knowledge available is more important than having the testers sat with them. A fair point, perhaps?
Having just that day finished their first timebox, I asked if I could attend the retrospective and the planning session for the second. “I haven’t planned a retrospective,” he said. And that concerned me even more. Largely, it’s due to the lack of available space to hold them. Meeting rooms are all booked up, he said. Probably because he hadn’t booked recurring appointments for every timebox before kicking off the first.
I will be spending some more time with this team over the next few weeks to see if I can help. While some of their challenges might be insurmountable, I am sure that they can improve their predictability. This should be interesting.