The Million Dollar Question – by Mike Cottmeyer

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Agile software development teams - teamworkI’m delighted to introduce my first ever guest blogger on All About Agile…

Mike Cottmeyer is a product consultant and agile evangelist for Version One, and regularly blogs about various aspects of agile software development.

Here he writes about teamwork, and the importance of agile teams pulling together…

People have lots of reasons for not working together like a team. In many organizations… it is pretty common for developers and testers to only interact through the defect management system. For a long time developers and testers weren’t even encouraged to talk to each other… let alone collaborate. Sometimes developers don’t even get talk to a product manager… let alone a real customer. All their requirements come by way of a great big requirements document… and if they have any questions… or need any clarification… they can go talk to the BA.

Sometimes I’ll meet a new agile team… one that just recently came out of this way old of working… and they are bringing many of those low bandwidth communication habits along with them. When we talk about people interacting on a daily basis… when we talk about developers and testers and customers talking to each other… when we talk about collaborating and having shared accountability… these are pretty foreign concepts. These folks come up with all kinds of reasons that a defect HAS to be written up during the sprint or that requirement change just HAS to be documented and passed through change management. It’s the only way they know how to work together… and they want to know they can be individually successful… successful independent of everyone else on the team.

When I meet a team like this, I like to ask them to do a little thought exercise with me. What if I offered everyone on the team one million dollars to plan a set of features that could be delivered in two weeks. The team would work with the customer directly to understand the requirements… the team would make a shared committment… the team would deliver the work. Once the work was delivered… they’d all get one million dollars… each. No one sets the goal… they set it for themselves. But… and here is the kicker… everyone gets the million or no one gets the million.

We are all dependent on each other for a successful outcome.

Would this kind of reward change your notion of planning? Would it change your notion of working together? Would you allow process and red tape and defect management and change control stand in the way of delivery? Most people start telling me how they would generate as little documentation as possible… how QA testers would work with developers to make sure the code was right… how they would review progress with their customers frequently to get feedback. They start telling me about how much they’d talk to each other to make sure they were getting things right.

So… if we can create that sense of urgency to inflate our own personal bank accounts… what stops is from breaking down all those organziational barriers for the sake of our companies… for the sake of our recurring paycheck? At the end of the day… that’s what’s really at stake… our companies… and our continued employment… are depending on it.

Mike Cottmeyer is a product consultant and agile evangelist for VersionOne. Prior to joining VersionOne, Mike was a senior project manager for CheckFree Corporation where he led a portfolio of projects for their online banking and bill payment business unit. Mike has 20 years of experience leading IT initiatives using a combination of traditional, agile, and lean project management best practices. Mike is a certified PMP Project Manager and a certified ScrumMaster. He co-created the DSDM Agile Project Leader certification and holds Foundation, Practitioner, and Examiner level certificates. Mike is an honorary member of the DSDM Consortium and a founder of the Lean Software and Systems Consortium. Mike speaks internationally on the topic of Agile Project Management and writes for several blogs including Leading Agile and VersionOne Agile Chronicles and occasionally for AgileSoftwareDevelopment.com.

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