Can Bill Gates help us to be agile?
This isn't the first team I've mentored where I find the walls plastered with a reliquary of various artwork. In the photos that this team has kindly allowed up to publish (below) you can see, from top to bottom: posters of Bill Gates (obviously next to a Ubuntist work station); various Alfa Romeo fan club paraphernalia; snapshots of the kids, girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers, mothers-in-law, as screensavers or taped onto computers; various decorations with humorous quips; and progressive screensavers, even a few sexy ones. Everything serves as a pleasant distraction.
The feeling I got the first day I walked in was that I'd entered the bedroom of a friend of mine back when we were kids. I was certain that any moment now he'd pull out a table football game or Castle Wolfenstein. Oh no!
They are developers! They work here professionally! Oh, and I forgot to mention… the team was used to every sort of interruption from the Internet, telephones (with loud enough ring tones to call anyone to order who might be enjoying some post-lunch downtime), to Gtalk, msn, Skype...
I'm convinced that this team can turn into a good one, but can Bill stuck up on the wall help these developers become agile?
Oftentimes we programmers are just big babies. We like to have fun, to kid around, to tease one another. We put up our lucky charms, trophies, and posters, just like the ones we used to decorate our bedrooms as kids. Computer Geeks!
...and now: Refactoring!
Wow, the hidden wall reappears!
One day last week these developers worked hard to change everything in their environment. No more kid’s bedroom. They took everything off the walls, put up panels to display user stories. No more personal screensavers on their work machines; they reorganized their work tables, switched on voice mail and inverted dependencies with Gtalk, sms, Skype, etc. Almost everything except phone calls from customers, but they’ll work out more appropriate ways to deal with those. And the trinkets, posters, personal mail, matching cell phones? Everything was put on a small wall and a special table, on one side of the room. When they work, there are no trinkets, when they have a long break with the Pomodoro they can have all the trinkets and email they want.
What led this team to make such a labor-intensive change? Answering this question: "Is all this effective for the team?"