7 Ways to Make Good Teams Great

Sven Peters

Atlassian Ambassador, @svenpet

  • When are good programmers motivated? In programmers heaven
    • Kick Ass Product
    • Kick Ass Team
    • Everything else is not so important anymore.
  • What companies do
    • Give us money, but that doesn’t really motivate us to make the customer happy, just to get the bonus
    • Getting the best/right people, and then putting them behind bars… great talent but limited possibilities
      • e.g. limited hour windows (you must be in the office between 9am and 4pm)
      • Stupuid rules – you can’t use IntelliJ IDEA, we use Eclipse!
  • What can devleoper do?
    • Revolution… leads to the guillotine!
    • Do nothing and complain. This also does not help!
    • Or, Be the change you seek. Make a small change and try to let it grow.

7 ways to make good teams great

  1. It’s flowtime!
    • Productivity – Interruption kills productivity, and takes up to 50 minutes to get you back
    • Spending 2 hours/day recovering from distractions
    • 80% of interruptions are considered trivial (atlss.in/TimeWaster)
    • Closed doors vs. Open workspace
    • Engineering is less about “Getting things done” and more about Collaboration
    • Sven’s previous team tried “Do Not Disturb Time” – 1pm to 4pm, closed the doors. All meetings in the morning. Phones off. Some turned off email/chat.
      • First week was terrible. Kept being interrupted.
      • After that it started to spread to other parts of the department
      • Good time to talk to one another… but how do you ensure you don’t disturb the rest.
        • Chat is great for silent conversations.
        • People can stay in the zone
        • Lots of chat rooms work well at Atlassian.
        • Hipchat mentions mean you can pull people in later, even if they are not online
    • Reality Check:
      • Feasibility: 4/5
      • Awesomeness: 2/5
  2. Feed Your Brain
    • Conferences
    • Trying new things
    • Organized coding sessions on a new language, new topic, etc.
      • Every tuesday night for 2hrs, ordered some pizza and hacked something.
      • Not everybody came, but some did. Wasn’t universally applicable.
    • Organize Brown Bags
      • After a few times, his team burnt out on it a bit, but started showing conference videos instead and had a small discussion. Good stuff!
    • Reality Check:
      • Feasibility: 5/5
      • Awesomeness: 2/5
  3. Say Well Done!
    • Companies are really good at celebrating big goals
    • Most folks aren’t connected to big goals.
    • We need to appreciate the small things
      • Appreciate is important for happiness
      • Appreciation should be made public
      • Appreciation without approval
    • At atlassian, you can give a colleague kudos, unfiltered, through a web page in their extranet
      • Talent department takes care of rewards
    • Reality Check (for the kudos thing):
      • Feasibility: 2/5
      • Awesomeness: 3/5
  4. Report Robot
    • He spends SO MUCH TIME creating project reports from disparate systems
    • His boss might read them. His boss’ boss maybe. His team never does.
    • At Alassian they are wild about collecting data and use SQL macro to make automated project reports
    • (This is a pretty custom/subjective suggestion… Not super helpful acroass the board, but the spirit of the idea is sound.)
    • Wallboards for information radiation
    • Reality Check:
      • Feasibility: 2/5
      • Awesomeness: 4/5
  5. Eat your own dog food
    • (Not applicable to us…)
    • Ths is alpha testing your own software, so that you understand your custmomer better
    • This can be a painful process, but you do get fast feedback.
    • Dogfooding at Atlassian
      • Confluence extranet, always the latest version
    • Reality Check:
      • Feasibility: 2/5
      • Awesomeness: 5/5
  6. Do A Special Day
    • Take a day off!
    • This is like one of those unpleasant things that you push off, but you have to do it
    • But seriously, forget about the current sprint for a day.
    • Doc Sprints
      • 1–2 day event
      • Tech Writers invite Developers to write documentation
      • Provide developers with “perks” to motivate them
      • Tech Writers polish and deliver
    • Blitz Test
      • Short – couple of hours, half day, etc.
      • Whole company invited to bang on a given release
      • QA assigns groups to features, and collect data
    • This is about just getting things out of the door .. getting yourself out of your normal environment
    • Reality Check:
      • Feasibility: 5/5
      • Awesomeness: 3/5
  7. Experimentation Time
    • “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not enough time.” – Leonard Bernstien
    • Atlassian has Ship-It days
      • Motivation through Innovation
      • Start with an idea
      • Teams gather around an idea or you can work on your own idea
      • Write up a single page up – “Shipment Order” which is the Plan
      • Get together one day before the day and make a sprint plan for the 24 hour period
      • And then it starts! This is the coolest day of the quarter!
      • Thursday 3pm to Friday 3pm.
      • Fork the code bas, some work through the night, some go home for a few hours
      • Present ship it day results at 3pm Friday to other people in the company
      • Vote for the Ship It Day winner
      • GO home, or end up at a bar, etc.
    • What do you get out of a Ship It Day?
      • Innovation
      • Happy Nerds!
      • Crappy, unmaintainable code
      • Unstable Features
    • 20% time
      • Can be used for whatever we want.
      • Innovation time.
      • It’s their own.
    • Atlassian measures it – it’s more like 5% time!
      • Mostly due to conflicts. Sprint goals get in the way and they might let the team down.
      • Heavy workload gets in the way.
      • Heavy dependencies get in the way, like if you’re working with a colleague on that 20% time thing
    • Moved to innovation weeks
      • Innovation Time
      • Planned Time
      • Team Time
      • Stash team works on product for 5 weeks out of a 6 week release cycle.
      • It’s not 20%, but it’s something!
    • Reality Check:
      • Feasibility: 4/5
      • Awesomeness: 5/5

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