I had the good fortune to attend Mile High Agile this year. It was held on April 18th at the Downtown Denver Marriott, and it was a packed house! The company I work for as a consultant, Sogeti, was a Gold Sponsor, so I had the opportunity to attend the conference and rub shoulders with some industry experts. I attend some great seminars, shared some thoughts, and learned quite a bit. Not too shabby for a day’s work, right?
Of course I attended the keynote this year: The Future of Agile (If There is Any) by Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin. He had a lot of insight, and it was very eye-opening to hear from one of the people who actually crafted the agile manifesto in Snowbird, Utah in 2001. He said a lot of things (including mapping out the history of the world on the breadth of his arm span), but one thing that really resonated with me was transparency.
“Uncle Bob” said that the whole meaning behind what the folks in Snowbird meant to convey was transparency. He spoke of the disconnect between businesses and the people doing the heavy lifting (i.e. developers and testers). That disconnect created distrust because neither side could see what the other was really doing. As a result, they didn’t trust each other. Developers and testers were held to “estimates” as if those estimates were written in stone, so they fudged their numbers. Business folks expected them to fudge so they didn’t share all the information with them (like the big picture).
I wrote all of that in past tense, but really, do we see anything different today? That chasm between business folks and developer/tester folks still exists. I think we have some bridges across it now, and by using agile practices, we can certainly build more.
Mr. Martin also went on to illustrate this disconnect in terms of training being offered and in terms of percentages of people who attend conferences like Mile High Agile. Of the folks at the conference, a very large percentage of them were managers of some sort (project managers, scrum masters, agile coaches, etc.). A much smaller percentage were developers and/or testers – the technical types. Daniel Lynn illustrated this pretty well in one of his recent blog posts on Coyote Agile. Go check it out.
So how do we fix this? I think the first step is to ask ourselves this question: How transparent are we? I’ve asked this question about a good many places I’ve worked, and as can be expected, some companies have been more transparent than others. Here are a few of the transparent practices I most appreciated:
On Projects / In Teams
- Regularly communicate status
- Regularly solicit feedback
- Regularly schedule demos of ongoing work
- Promptly raise roadblocks
- Publicly share successes
- Regular communication about work in the form of Daily stand-ups
- Managers communicate regularly with direct reports (one-on-one meetings are best, but even regular check-in emails are better than nothing)
- Direct reports solicit feedback from managers and customers (both internal and external)
- Publicly post/relate team progress
In Departments/Business Units
- Regular communication from Directors/Executives to convey the big picture
- Directors/Executives share timely, pertinent information
- Directors/Executives Publicly celebrate successes, no matter how small
While most of this revolves around communication, there are many other ways we can be transparent. What are some of your suggestions?