sudo aptivate-get-it

Some thoughts after getting the chance to lead a retrospective at Aptivate, a super non-profit doing IT for NGOs and other charities:

It can very hard to explain agile development to customers. Even if your immediate contact understands and accepts the notion of an optional-scope contract, their superiors may not. And those who accept the idea of participatory development and appear to commit to regular interaction with developers may not actually deliver when the time comes. Aptivate are developing project and contract blueprints that should help them avoid this kind of problem in future. (Nice to see how they are working on this – rather than trying to allocate a block of time to write the document from scratch, they are adding to it as they find problems. A little effort at a time, proportional to current problems, is much more effective, we’ve found.)

Reflective processes like five whys and retrospectives are really important to the success of an agile team. Aptivate already have very autonomous and highly motivated developers, thanks to the great work they’re doing, but I expect providing processes that help those developers to analyse and improve their work regularly will make a big difference in making their team really self-organising.

Even in tiny organisations, you can get subgroups who don’t understand what others are doing. Just within our seven retrospective participants, I counted five project teams who were missing information about what the other teams were doing! One group was particularly isolated because of a language barrier, a challenge most of us don’t have (at least when we have co-located teams). Aptivate are using video to promote their work externally, and are thinking now that they can use it also to document and share what they are doing internally. I’ll be interested to see how they get on with this!

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