An Agile Letter To Santa!

Wouldn’t it be great if Santa Claus was more agile? I mean, by now we all know that it is crazy to work for 364 days a year and then do a delivery within a 24 hour period! Wizard definitely had the right idea, wishing that it could be Christmas everyday! Working in shorter, 1 day sprints, Santa and his team could have more chance to stop, reflect and improve. Plus, his clients would get the added benefit of getting value, enjoying Christmas everyday!

Putting Santa’s waterfall approach aside, today is a month till Christmas day and it is about time that we put an agile letter to Santa together (let’s just hope that we haven’t changed our minds as I don’t think that Santa and the elves can cope with change this late in the game).

I have been thinking of some of the things, products and artefacts that have made agile teams that I work with successful over the years. I have put them into a nice list for you, in order for you and your team to pick and choose the ones that you want to add to your list!

Here goes…

Dear Santa,

My agile team and I have been really well behaved this year, been responsive to change, open minded, value focused and committed to continual improvement. With that in mind, please can we have:

  1. A huge 60″ TV – If you haven’t already read it, read my post on “How To Justify a 60″ TV To Your Boss”. It explains in detail why I love the benefits that a large TV can bring to your agile team… Really!
  2. More whiteboards – Whiteboards have transformed how we work at McKenna Consultants. We use them to; draw wire frames, discuss ideas, make lists, come up with technical architecture, stick things to it, display the World Cup sweepstakes and even as a Kanban board before we went digital! There are many more ways to utilise a whiteboard in your office. We cover every spare metre of wall space with them! Just remember to photograph any moment of brilliance before a colleague comes along and wipes the board clean!
  3. A JIRA subscription – We started to use JIRA for our digital Kanban around 18 months ago and have never looked back since. It is easy to use and great for managing our backlog. We use it in its simplest form as we find that the more you customise and restrict it, the more that the team becomes bound by it!
  4. Planning poker cards – A staple of any agile team. If you’re not already relatively estimating, start now. It’s easy to do and you will be amazed at how accurate over time your estimates become! If you don’t want to buy them… make your own!
  5. Books – CPD is a big part of what we do at McKenna Consultants and it’s something that we actively encourage the team to do. We have a shared Kindle account and Amazon account enabling anyone at any time to buy or download a book that they need! In a bigger organisation? Why not start a CPD book club, or in a smaller team, each member do a show and tell on a book they’ve read each sprint! Just try to avoid any titles starting with 50 shades… Some of our favourite books can be found on our training references list.
  6. ElfKit Festive Fitness Advent Calendar app – Who loves counting the days to Christmas with an advent calendar? We certainly do, that’s why we have made a couple of Christmas advent calendar apps, free for you to download now! Check them out and spread a little festive joy around the office!
  7. Scrum ball – I like to keep my teams on their toes – especially in the daily stand up. I introduced a mini rugby ball as a symbol to determine who’s turn it is to speak. Once a team member has finished, they throw it to who they want to hear from next. Only the person with the ball can speak. When the stand up is finished, the person with the ball has the responsibility of starting tomorrow’s stand up. This game makes it fun (there is a certain amount of heckling when someone drops the ball), and encourages everyone to pay attention and LISTEN!
  8. Microsoft Surface 3 – Transform the way you work with one of these nifty little machines. Our CEO Nick has recently moved to this as his work and on the go machine.
  9. Video camera – During a CPD book show and tell, a team member shared an insight into a book about User Story Mapping. The author suggested that you record discussions around requirements, or as we call them at McKenna Consultants, “User Story Workshop” or “Story Time”. The benefits of this is amazing. These discussions can often become detailed, enthusiastic, interesting and key to the product. But if the team is not immediately going off to work on this, some key insights can be forgotten. We found that by recording these short, snappy discussions, we can watch them back and recap on any decisions and suggestions made. It also provides a great talking point for a retrospective! (Which are also great to record!).
  10. Toys! – No software development team is complete without some toys! We have Ironman, a Plant of the Apes monkey head, R2D2, lightsabres, an Xbox One… We try to find some downtime now and then to make the office fun and to foster creative thoughts.
  11. Coffee machine – The Tassimo in our office is probably the hardest working member of the team. It’s not because the rest of the team doesn’t work hard, just that we drink a lot of coffee. No one likes rubbish coffee, so don’t buy your team and guests it!
  12. Dedicated PO – Finally, the thing that all agile teams want for Christmas, a dedicated, pro-active Product Owner. You can have the most highly skilled software development team in the world, with a weak Product Owner and you are likely to build a really good, but ultimately WRONG product. However, with an average development team and a strong Product Owner, you are more likely to build the RIGHT product… eventually! Imagine what you could do with a great team and a great Product Owner. We have coached, trained and mentored numerous Product Owners and find that once this is nailed, the team almost instantly becomes more focused, more productive and happier!

So that’s my Christmas wishlist for you and your teams, see how you can make the most of some of these things! Maybe you could adapt this to a themed retrospective, or wait patiently for next week’s blog post…