SilverStripe is an Agile company, adopting Agile methodologies that deliver projects in iterative cycles with a focus on self-organising teams, collaboration, usable outputs and continuous learning. We use Scrum as the framework for Agile project management whereby work is organised in two-week “sprints” to respond and adapt to projects’ changing requirements.
So what does a day in a Scrum team look like? You may wonder. I thought what would be a better way to answer that than interviewing one of our high-performing teams in SilverStripe - the Super Villains. I sat them down with all the questions you may want to ask about working in a Scrum team.
The Super Villains consists of three developers Wilfred Godfrey, Denise Rivera, Ben Manu and Scrum Master Tony Dale-Low (the team’s coach/facilitator). Together, they work with some of New Zealand’s leading businesses and organisations such as Skinny Mobile and NZTA, who are the team’s clients or “Product Owners” (the representatives of the businesses and customers in Agile projects).
How would you start your working day?
Denise and Wilfred: Stand-up [a daily 5-15 minute meeting to help team members get in sync and identify how well they are progressing towards their sprint goals].
How do you guys decide what each of you is going to work on?
Wilfred: We kind of look at each other awkwardly and finally somebody will say something (laughs).
Denise: Depending on the tasks but yes, generally there is an awkward silence, then somebody will suggest something. We are pretty self-managed.
What do you start first?
Ben: Based on the priorities for a project, based on the sprint backlog [the list of tasks to be completed as identified and agreed by the Scrum team at the start of a sprint].
Denise: We are also focused on peer review, so if there's something on Peer Review, we pick that card first.
Wilfred: Yes, as a team we are really big on peer review, communicating a lot, and looking over each other’s shoulder.
Tony: The team are also starting to do a lot more peer programming which is a skill and they are starting to get more comfortable with it
If you are working to a prioritised list, how do you cope with unexpected tasks on the day that need immediate attention?
Ben: Panic (laughs)! Tony manages and handles those distractions. If something pops up, he will organise someone to work on it or talk to the client to sort it out.
Tony: Yes, normally the team would flag it to me and we talk within the team how that’s going to affect the sprint work and decide “do we have to do that?” or “can someone else do that?”. Sometimes we have just one person handle it without causing distractions for the whole team.
At the end of a day, how do you know that you’ve had “a good day”?
Denise: You’re smiling.
Ben: If I can go home and totally switch off from work.
Tony: When I feel the team is very productive, they are rolling. The path is smooth and they are collaborating very well. Nothing worse than a team not talking to each other. The cool thing about this team is that they are pretty much self-managing the process - they decided to move their desks so that they could see each other’s screens more easily. So when initiatives like that happen that have been suggested by the team, I feel like I’ve had a good day.
What do you like about working in a Scrum team?
Wilfred: It has been one of the biggest opportunities to grow as a person. I want to be challenged, especially in peer review where we challenge each other. We teach each other. We “fight” with each other in a friendly way.
Ben: We also have trust and at the end of the day, we produce good results together. I used to work by myself, not working in a team and you don’t really grow. It’s less fulfilling.
Denise: We get a lot of best practices. If I don’t write tests for my task, I can’t pass peer review.
What does working in an Agile way mean to you?
Denise: It’s very comfortable. It’s a natural way for me to do things now.
Ben: Yes, it’s very organic.
Wilfred: So Agile is like building little pieces and grow a thing from the base. You have a lot of conversation about how to build things and look at how we can change.
Tony: The team are great at handling a lot of uncertainty. Some teams can’t handle it when things are not totally clear, but this team can work even without all the dots connected.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
Denise: A dolphin.
Wilfred: A honey badger. Honey badgers - they are really badass.
Ben: A tiger - lazy and majestic.
Tony: An eagle because I’m a bit on the serious side (resting b**ch face comes to mind!)...No, I’m not that serious (laughs).
Image source: http://jr19759.deviantart.com/art/Team-Supreme-350105585