Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Delivery Guild emerged. Actually, it wasn’t that far away, so we can stick with just one iteration of far. If I am wrong, we could do another iteration and deliver one more far. Assuming of course we will have the same velocity. Anyway, the distance is greater than a single swallow could travel. Obviously African swallow and without coconuts. Yes… where was I.. aha, Delivery Guild.
A bit of context.
As the delivery Guild supports all operational activities like development, testing or business analysis, all Guild Masters within it have a lot of responsibilities. On top of that, Delivery Guild binds together almost 200 people, what by itself is a challenge. Finally, the tools and process around software delivery change very fast, so aiming for thought leadership requires not only staying on top but actually creating something new. Effective coordination of such amount of work proved to be really difficult. Amongst all the identified problems the biggest ones were: lack of synchronization between the teams, wrong prioritization and slow progress. There were cases where two guilds were working on the same item not knowing about each other and duplicating the work done. All these problems are not new and as usually in such cases, the idea for solution was right in front of our eyes.
What we came up with is Delivery Guild Board. Like all Kanban-like boards it has few columns showing work items in different stages (backlog, new, in progress and done). There is completely nothing new and fancy in the board itself, but what`s new for us, was using it for the management team. The board is on the wall of our office corridor, where everybody can see it.
Once a week, all Delivery Guild Masters meet and spend around half an hour walking through the items on the board and new ones. All the tasks are broken down in a way that they could be completed within a week (of course often it doesn’t happenJ) and are as SMART as possible. It is similar to a regular stand-up meeting.
Benefits ( so far as the board idea is couple of months old )
- Work visibility – all Guild Masters see their own work items and update the rest of the team with progress, like in a regular development team. I don’t think I need to describe the benefits of that element.
- Transparency – as mentioned earlier, this board is accessible to all the employees, so everybody knows what their Guild Masters focus on. This provides an ability to influence Guild Masters work and give feedback that something is more important for the teams than what is currently being done.
- Information sharing – often other Guild Masters show up during the stand-up, so they can hear what the Delivery Guild is working on.
- Discipline – Last but not least, such a weekly stand up adds a bit more discipline around the work done. We all felt that managerial roles benefit from that element.
So far we all like the idea and we all believe it is working. For sure our operations are more organized and we do not have the problem of work duplication. Finally, we had a case of first people actually adding sticky notes to our backlog with items, that are important for them. The challenges that we are focusing on now are:
- limiting the work in progress (this board actually made us realize how big that is)
- limiting the time spent on the weekly meeting, as occasionally it becomes longer
- encouraging more people to take interest in this, as this is a great opportunity to focus our attention on something important
I guess this is it for now. Time will verify if the true value of the idea.