Monday, September 29, 2014

On agile, blocks of stone and building cathedrals

This morning, our team's flowdoc channel had a picture of a user interface with a question directed to the project manager, asking if this was ok. The trigger for the picture and question was an issue I had reported saying the previous version of that particular user interface was not ok, outlining why.

I was delighted on the cultural change that the question was done over the channel so that I could see it. Two weeks ago, I would expect to be involved either by accident (overhearing if I spend enough time not concentrating on whatever I'm doing - which I did actually reserve time for) or by testing the resolved issue. With the new picture, I could immediately see that while the changes resolve the specific issue I had raised, it created another issue about consistency. I had mentioned the need for consistency when reporting the issue as a side note. We discussed and fixed the consistency issue by changing the other user interface so that the new idea we were fixing would fit the overall feel of the product.

With the little success of teamwork, I was left thinking about successes and lack of thereof. In this case, I would like to think that I cannot be the only person in my team to think about the overall product experience. But very often what still seems to go on is that while I feel I work with a purpose in mind, we often see symptoms of being very task-oriented and not thinking outside the first perceived box. Ari summed my feeling of the attitude nicely: 
If we want agile to work, we need to somehow change these kinds of attitudes. We could change it by introducing someone like me, who actively suggests other perspectives - that could be any role, it's more of a personality thing. But the puzzle is how to coach people into really thinking about the overall product and user experience. Can't change the others, but can try to change the system that makes them behave in certain way.

With agile, we rely on active and skilled people in the teams that together do things well. But it might be really easy to end up with emergent roles where mine in this case would be one that reminds on thinking over the limits of the task at hand. And the team can easily be trained to rely on me instead of thinking for themselves.

There will always be people who just work here and don't feel they serve a purpose. I'm the kind of person that would think of building a cathedral even if I was creating blocks of stone. I think I'm that by personality. Am I expecting too much from systemic conditions if I hope that we'd encourage everyone see their work as part of a bigger perspective?