This is the third part of this series and is about the seven properties of Crystal(1)(2) applied in our context narrated by one of the team members, Alexandra Vasile, so:
“After working in the context of this project I realized that for sure the context on which I worked before, which claimed to be agile/scrum, was out of track. They reversed individuals and interactions with processes and tools.
Our work was to create a tool which helped all the other teams. We needed to move fast, to respond prompt to the unplanned things that appeared, take care not to disturb the others work.
Crystal has the following seven properties. I will come across them and discuss each related to this specific situation:
- Frequent Delivery – our work was delivered everyday in the test platform, and was tested by us and by the other teams which used that code. Every month, our code was included in the production delivery. This helped us to have a quick feedback regarding our work and in case of problems we could respond fast. At the begining of the month we did not have the whole picture of what was going to be delivered, at the detail level, we only had the direction of the changes. In a way, problems which occurred on production helped us a lot because it aid more to rafinate our decisions, priorities and daily work. Almost each time a bug appeared everything stopped and we tried to fix it. There are rare the occasions when we postpone one bug for more than a month.
- Reflective Improvement – This thought exercise did not happened because a protocol was in place. If it was a protocol, for sure, I did not felt it. Is like common sense prevailed also here. It just happened without too much hassle. We stayed and reflected on 2 occasions: when a bug appeared in production or when the monthly release was done to production. Everytime a problem occurs, we all discussed, sometimes very nervous, tried to find a solution/way to improve and not to make the same mistake again.
If I think better and try to make associations with past work, we had dailys when we took the coffee, but for sure were not those kind of dailys were reporting was done.
- Osmotic Communication – It seems this was a critical point in our physical setup. In other occasions/projects although we were collocated actually it did not matter because conversation happened almost exclusively on Skype, so strange. The fact that we stayed in the same office, with the business expert, closed to each other helped us. We communicated frequently between us, we knew what the others were doing. We didn’t need special meetings for that. We intervened when we heard a discussion between the other team members and shared our opinion/knowledge/piece of advice – we helped each other. This aids us a lot.
We had a Skype group shared with the client. We put on the Skype group, as a profile image, an italian police car and agents from DIA, for us it was a way to say “ok, no fooling around”.
- Personal Safety – We felt safe in the team. We didn’t had fear to make a mistake. Our team lead encouraged us a lot, he told us is ok if we also do make mistakes because we learn from that – who didn’t work, didn’t make mistakes. We helped each other, between us it wasn’t a competition. If someone made a mistake, nobody putted him/her on the wall, on contrary it was helped to find a solution. Another thing very important was that we trusted each other. That’s why it’s very important how the teams are build, because if you are in a team where you are not trusted this implies in a way that you don’t have trust in the other team members either. And when you don’t feel safe you will never do your best.
- Focus – The team was built specially for this project. It was a very important premise from the beginning that the persons involved will have to work full time on this subject, no part time work or partially involved. It was very important because the work needed to be done involved full concentration. We set from the beginning some premises and we all knew the final scope.
- Easy Access to Expert Users – The business expert, the one which envisioned the tool was with us. Also the members of the team knew the sub-parts of the product. When we had some unknowns we knew who were the persons to ask.
- Technical Environment with Automated Tests, Configuration Management, and Frequent Integration – Since almost most of our work involved repairing and fixing existing code we needed these changes on the test platform as soon as possible.Without knowing, the other teams by testing their product indirectly tested also our work.
Probably some will say the same things could have been done in other ways. What was nice is that we were able to see another unknown face of agile in this case was Crystal. Our scope was to move fast, to deliver quickly the work which was needed, because without this tool, which we made, they spend more than 90 days to have some things done, which now with the tool are ready in ~20 minutes.”
(1) Alistair Cockburn, “Crystal Clear Applied: The Seven Properties of Running an Agile Project”, http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=345009
(2) Alistair Cockburn, “Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams”, https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0201699478