January 6th, 2009
Today at VendAsta we had our first full day of planning for the MyFrontSteps Sprint #2. We did some high level planning yesterday as well as demoing and a post mortem for the first Sprint. Having had a chance to relax this evening watching a few episodes of Long Way Round with my wife, there are a few things that have struck me about the whole Scrum process as it works at VendAsta.
First and foremost, I absolutely love the amount of planning and forethought that goes into each 30-day development sprint. My past two jobs had nothing that even remotely compares to this. One was an online grocery store (which just recently discontinued operations) which meant that most development was done within the demands of an operating e-business and as a result needed to be very seat-of-the-pants. The other was a manufacturing company which meant that development processes were heavily driven by the demands of sales and manufacturing departments and those demands could and would change in the blink of an eye. Needless to say, I have found the change to be very liberating.
That is not to say that we couldn’t do more planning. One of the things that we found working through our first sprint was that while we felt we had done a great deal of planning up front, there was actually a lot of granularity that we were lacking. This is something we are endeavoring to overcome in the planning for Sprint 2. As much as I love the planning sessions we are having and as exciting as I find the whole process, it is a very tiring and draining experience. Well worth it, but wearying nonetheless.
A second major thing that struck me was how well we worked as a team. Considering the fact that five people were placed on a development team, given a couple of weeks to do some research and get to know each other and then thrust into the middle of a very ambitious project, we somehow managed to work very well together. Coupling this with the fact that we are working with a large number of cutting edge technologies, I would have expected at least a little friction to develop somewhere in the team over the course of 30 days, but none did. I believe that this is largely due to the environment at VendAsta and their hiring process. Everyone who gets hired there has to go through a lunch with other developers whom they will be working with. If those devs don’t think that you are a good fit for the team and the company, you don’t get hired. I don’t know why more companies don’t operate this way. People from HR departments should use VendAsta as a case study in how to build a whole company that just “gels”.
Finally, in the past two days I have been very impressed with the manner in which some of the trouble spots from Sprint 1 have been discussed. Previously, I have experienced project post mortems that are nothing more than a gathering of people around a table to point fingers at each other. In our post mortem yesterday we were encouraged to be completely honest and frank about what we did and didn’t like about how Sprint 1 went. At no point was there any finger pointing and the blame game just didn’t happen. The maturity of my team mates and our “chickens” impressed me to no end.
So, that is about it for my impressions on Sprint 1. We’re neck deep in planning Sprint 2 right now so I am afraid that Episode 4 of Roger’s Wars will still be a couple of days away. I’ve had a few people contact me asking when the rest of the saga was going to unfold but with the holidays and now our sprint planning, I’m having trouble finding the time to do it when my head is not either a) jell-o or b) utterly focused on work. Tomorrow or the next day I hope to sit myself down with a pot of Earl Grey and hammer out the fourth installment. Thanks for your patience