Roger Meddows Taylor probably didn’t know anything about magical moments in Agile development when he wrote the following lines of the famous Queen song A Kind of Magic back in the mid-80s:
One dream, one soul, one prize, one goal,
One golden glance of what should be
It’s a kind of magic
One of my favorite magical moments in Agile is when people, often from different parts of an organization, suddenly understand the motivation of the other people involved. They realize they have a common goal and you could say they get a golden glance at what should be.
To give you an example of such a moment, I want to tell you a story about a User Story workshop I facilitated recently. The goal of the workshop was to come up with the most important stories for the enhancement of an exciting product. Before the workshop, I had made sure people from every involved part of the organization participated. There were people representing development, marketing, sales, first-level support, and management.
As we started the workshop, the developers sat together and the same could be said for the other departments. They were not used to mingling and were also unfamiliar with the process as Agile is just being introduced into the organization. In their defense, they loosened up pretty quickly as they realized we were not gathered to place blame for past failures, but to figure out the best way forward.
They started the workshop by identifying eleven user roles and described them in a lightweight-personas fashion to better understand their motivations and differences. Afterward, they wrote user stories one role at a time and, finally, prioritized the stories, first by role and then consolidated the highest valued stories across roles.
The magic, however, happened during the third break. I had called for a 10-minute coffee, phone, mail or whatever people needed to do break. I’m not sure why, but the two developers and two people from first-line support stayed behind. They started talking about their jobs and one of the first-line support people told the developers about how many times a day she apologizes to the customers. She was not blaming the developers for any wrongdoings but simply laying out the facts. The developers could hardly believe what they were hearing and they started to ask additional questions to learn more about the daily life of the supporters.
As the break came to an end, they were still discussing the matter and I asked them to include the others in their discussion. Suddenly, everyone could feel the frustration of angry clients calling to complain about features not working and from this point on they worked with a new-found determination to do something about the situation. Also to make sure developers would stay updated on the impact of their work, they agreed that developers should regularly sit and do their work next to the supporters.
The cool thing about a magical moment like the one described above is that it’s easily reproducible. By knocking down organizational barriers, bringing the right people together, establishing a common goal and facilitating collaboration, you will be able to experience it again and again… It’s a kind of Magic!
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