2012-03-27

The best of the best: family-size team in a family-size space

I build great software with great people. We need a great space in which to do it.

For the last year, we’ve been experimenting with an open plan collaboration space. Instead of working as individuals in cubicles, we work together in a space with no walls between us. For the first six months, we loved it. Knowledge and learning were in the air, and they spread spontaneously amongst team members. Everyone knew what was going on without asking. Junior team members barely had to ask for help, and their skills increased dramatically. We coalesced as a very good team and wrote some very good software.

Then we enlarged the space and added more people. We started complaining that it was crowded. It looked messy and unattractive. Knowledge and learning were still in the air, but the space was noisy and distracting.

We learned that open plan collaboration space is great for team collaboration, as long as the team and the space are family size—no more than seven people, in a space that’s about as big as a family room in your house. Enlarge the team or the space beyond family size, and it feels crowded, messy, and chaotic.

I awoke a few days ago with the inspiration for better space. We played Perfection Game together, and we arrived at this:
I work in my living room.
I'm working on great things in a great place: my living room. I'm sitting in a comfy chair with my computer on my lap. There's a table in case I need to draw something by hand. I have bountiful espresso, fruit, and snacks nearby. 
It’s so much fun, so cozy and welcoming, that my friends want to be there every day with me. 
Sometimes I need quiet time, so we have nearby rooms where we sit alone once in a while.
Logistically, for a small tribe of about 20 people, we’ll need to split up into three family-size units, with one collaboration space each. Each collaboration space will be the size of a living room. All the spaces will be adjacent to each other, so we can still work together as a super-team. Each room might have a different theme: the living room, the art room, the game room, etc.

We’ll build out our new space this month, and continue our experiment for the best possible workspace.

2012-03-20

Perfection Ping Pong

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ping-Pong_2.jpg
Perfection Ping Pong is derived from the Perfection Game, one of the McCarthy Technologies Core Protocols, and inspired by TDD Ping Pong.  This game will support you in your desire to aggregate the best ideas with people who are available only via communication channels such as email and IM.

Player A and Player B are partners in this game.  Player A "serves" an idea for perfection to Player B.  Player B "returns the serve" by perfecting the idea.  Players "paddle" the idea back and forth until it is perfect.

Steps
  1. Player A writes the description of an act or an object. He sends it as email or IM to Player B.
  2. Player B composes a written response.  He rates the value of the performance or object on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how much value the Perfector believes he or she can add.
  3. Player B writes, “What I liked about the performance or object was X,” and proceeds to list the qualities of the object he thought were of high quality or should be amplified.
  4. Player B offers the improvements to the performance or object required for it to be rated a 10 by saying “To make it a ten, you would have to do X.”
  5. Player B sends his response to Player A.
  6. Player A responds similarly, beginning at step 2
  7. Players continue until the idea is perfect.
Commitments
  • Accept perfecting without argument.
  • Give only positive comments: what you like and what it would take to “give it a 10.”
  • Abstain from mentioning what you don’t like or being negative in other ways.
  • Withhold points only if you can think of improvements.
  • Use ratings that reflect a scale of improvement rather than a scale of how much you liked the object.
  • If you cannot say something you liked about the object or specifically say how to make the object better, you must give it a 10.
Notes
  • A rating of 10 means you are unable to add value, and a rating of 5 means you will specifically describe how to make the object at least twice as good.
  • The important information to transmit in the Perfection Game protocol improves the performance or object. For example, “The ideal sound of a finger snap for me is one that is crisp, has sufficient volume, and startles me somewhat. To get a 10, you would have to increase your crispness.”
  • As a perfectee, you may only ask questions to clarify or gather more information for improvement. If you disagree with the ideas given to you, simply don’t include them.

2012-03-13

Agile Games 2012: Open Space and Games with Motion

The Agile Games conference is great. I have the privilege of participating in this year’s conference as a facilitator. On Friday, April 20, I will lead a game session called “Self Management: 5 Games with Motion.” We’ll play kinesthetic games that explore command-and-control versus self management. These are some of the most outrageously fun games you’ll ever play—I dare you to bring them back to your office and play them at work with your team!

On Saturday, April 21, I will facilitate a full day of Open Space. I attended my first Open Space a few years ago, facilitated by Harrison Owen, the inventor of Open Space. Harrison’s amazing facilitation and the power of Open Space blew my mind; it marks a milestone in my life. I facilitated the world’s longest Open Space with my team last year, and I’ll use that experience lead a great Open Space at this year’s conference. I hope to inspire great conversations about Agile, Agile games, and building great software with great people.

Register for this year’s Agile Games conference. You’ll love it!

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