Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Achievements of a Silo

Once upon a time there was a company, much like many other companies yet unique in many ways. As companies do, they hired some great people in different teams. There was one thing in common: all the people were awesome. But the people came from very different backgrounds and ideas.

In one of the teams where some great people in testing landed, the testers were feeling frustrated. With a new team and no infrastructure for builds and test automation yet features flying around being implemented and tested, they found it hard to take the time and focus they felt they needed. So as some great people do, they actively drove forward a solution: they created a new team on the side, with focus on just creating the infrastructure and dropped all the in-team work of testing they had managed to get started. Without facilitation, the in-team testing work turned into tiny, focused on units and components, and perspectives around value and system vanished in hopes of someone else picking them up, like magic.

With the new team and new focus, the great people made great progress. They set up a fancy pipeline with all sorts of fancy tests, and a lovely set of images and documents to share what a great machinery they had built. Where ever this new team showed up, they remembered to tell how well they did, and all the awesome stuff the machinery now made available with sample tests of all sorts that the pipeline theoretically should hold.

The original team focusing on features were handed the great machinery with high hopes for expanding it. The machinery building team built more machinery, on the side of the machinery being used for real projects.

The fun part of this fable arrives after many months has passed. The overall project with the lost focus of who owns system perspectives was struggling a bit, and it became obvious that getting a perspective into readiness wasn't an easy task. So as companies do, a meeting was called.

In the meeting, the machinery team presented all the great things they had built, and great they were. With every example of what was built as example into the machinery, the team focusing on features brought today's reality. That test job - turned off as it broke. Same with the other. And another. All the great things the machinery promised, none of it was realized in practice.

Lesson of this story is: it's not about your team's output, but about the outcome of all the different teams together. You can create the shiniest machinery there is, but if it is not used, and if relevant parts of it in real use get turned off, your proof of concept running all the shiny things provided very little value. It may have taught the great people in the machinery team some valuable personal lessons in the technical perspective. What it should teach is that value of whatever we are building comes from the use of it.

I'm a big believer of teams actively participating in building their continuous integration machinery, and slightly loath people who believe that learning together while building it, while taking it into use isn't needed because someone else could do the learning for you.

Learning with you is possible, for you is not. Achievement in silo often end up worth a little. 

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