Interview with a developer turned Agile

Following last week’s interview with a newly-minted Scrum Master this week I have had a conversation with developer Mateusz Udowski. We talked about how SilverStripe’s adoption of Agile and Scrum have affected him and why he thinks SilverStripe is now more intelligent as a whole than it was before.

Mateusz, what was the most interesting thing that happened during the change? What was the most surprising?
I was expecting we would have problems with completing less exciting tasks such as testing, but that didn’t happen. Shifting the responsibility from individuals to the group gave space for everyone to work efficiently.

Also, we needed some structure and after we started working as a team we began to collaborate and everything seemed to fall into place. I think the main reason for our success was that the team members regarded each other as peers.

What’s different now?
The biggest change is that there is no penalty for helping each other out anymore. The budget is relevant on the team level, but not on individual level, which means we can share problems and solutions.

One can clearly see what to work on now, and what needs to be worked on next. Tasks and impediments are clearly visible and are not being swept under the carpet.

Reducing the size of the team from 40 (whole company interacting semi-randomly) to 7 (Scrum team) makes it easier to work together, mainly because we get the chance to learn about and respect each others’ strengths, weaknesses and habits.

What is your day like now versus before?
Less stressful. It’s possible to get more work done because we can focus on tasks and clearly see at any moment where we are in the sprint and in the project.

Folk wisdom has it that when you force a person’s brain to focus on many things in parallel, their IQ falls considerably, and that’s how it feels now – less chaotic, more intelligent.

What are you more more confident about now? 
It’s easier now to apply creative solutions and “refactor fearlessly”. We have shifted from delivering at all costs to delivering high quality products up to capacity. Peer reviews, test coverages and testing by many people all contribute here.

It is possible to enhance how the team works both technically and from a process perspective. We can now build on top of what we have achieved in previous iterations because there is a “we” – a stable team.

What did you have to learn? What was the hardest to learn?
Not to tell people what to do and how to do it. It never worked well anyway. The other important ability is to be able to discern when is the time to say “no” to factors that would break the Scrum process.

How do you think you benefitted from working with a coach?
I’ve seen many of these Agile elements previously in different combinations and contexts, but never all put together.

A good coach will give you the confidence to apply all these principles now, immediately, and to achieve good result. Otherwise we would probably be stuck in the step-by-step approach which would stop halfway through and ultimately fail.

Pointing out the future possibilities is also helpful, showing that it’s not the end of the road.

What’s been in it for you?
There is more room for error and to try things out, hence more is possible. Short feedback loops and peer reviews provide a platform for learning and a cushion for failure.

Would you recommend Scrum and Agile to others?
Yep, without hesitation.

Conversations like these remind me why I love being an Agile coach. Whether the context or flavour is Agile, Lean, Systems Thinking, Scrum or Kanban (all very good things) – what it really boils down to is to make people’s working lives more enjoyable and purposeful and to create an environment where people are trusted to make decisions and have the freedom to succeed.

Mental note to self: Re-read this interview when I get frustrated with process, command and control and factory thinking.

Sandy Mamoli
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