Agile, Product Management

Individuals and interactions

This article is the second part of a series on: The end of the agile world hasn’t come.

Let’s be clear: I’m one of the first who, in a team, will want to get proper tooling and processes. Why? Especially because once it’s here, I only want to focus on individuals and interactions.
Put it an other way: I do not want individuals and interactions to be cramped by unreliable (/non existent) tooling or unadapted processes.

Let’s focus on two specific points. Communication tooling, and roles and responsibilities.

Communication tooling

I’ve read a blog article that said that the agile manifesto is obsolete, because it doesn’t match with today’s environment and remote working capacities. Well… I’m pretty sure that the agile manifesto explicitly warns from that trend. If there’s one thing I learn during my career, it’s that no matter how good your tooling, or your team is, there’s nothing like peer programming, or a good face to face discussion to clear out misunderstandings.

I’ve been working in teams that were lucky enough to setup amazing tooling environments. But every time that something went seriously wrong in the design or business related decisions could be blamed on lack of communication.

That article mentioned GitHub as some sort of a holy grail making that first agile statement as obsolete. Because it has awesome code review features, and all that. Where I do agree that GitHub is a great tool for development and code review, it’s not place to discuss product specifications, no place to discuss business logic. It’s just not made for that. It’s not its purpose.

Besides… written discussions? Seriously?! Who in the world who used services like instant messaging, forums, e-mails or whatever form of electronic written communication method, never had a sterile argument because of a misunderstanding?

Now I’m not saying that remote work should be avoided. Actually, interactions are today even more possible as there’s outstanding tools that serve exactly that purpose. Just start with Skype, or Hangouts. And a good webcam, because you seeing the person you talk to entirely changes the way you’ll be talking to her. Oh, and probably also because that will help go past the tool. Try not using a webcam while on a communication. You’ll end up doing something else, and thereby lose some focus on the discussion.

So: in order to favor interactions, no matter where your team is located, the point is to get the right tooling.

Roles and responsibilities

I’ll make a blunt statement, and will be happy to be proven wrong here as well: it’s impossible to be an expert in every subject. And if it is from some extra ordinary persons, then it’s not scalable.

If you want your business to grow, you’ll need a team.

Each member of that team will need to bring his specific value add. We’ll discuss more later about it, but as you need to empower your team members, you’ll also want the smallest overlap in expertise.

Actually, the smaller your team is the more you’ll want each team member to focus on his specific field of expertise, and let the others do their jobs. Failing to do so inevitably leads to arguments and opinion wars, where the good old Command & Control model will take over again (« I’m the chief, so you’ll do what I say »).

Get everybody’s roles and responsibilities clear and well-defined. And trust them to do their job. No arguments necessary, no need for anyone to be bossy on anyone else. You have a job, and the means to do it.

Basically, tools and processes are not an end, but a mean. They’re here to help where humans fail. They’re a support to individuals and interactions.
That is of course, as long as you chose the one that fits the purpose.

Read part 3: Working software over extensive documentation

Featured image by Vousnous Design

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