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04.09.2010 Lightweight moving

A personal space is important

When creating new co-located teams, there are physical things to move. We turned a number of teams into different teams. The motivation for the change was that the previous teams had technical boundaries and we really wanted feature teams. The process was fast and the details I will not discuss at this point.

The last time we changed floors and the process took a few weeks including cleaning up the cabinets, cutting the roots that had clung to the floor, packing, unpacking and settling down. That was recently and may have an effect on the following one, but something was completely different.

I have a previous life in remote work, subcontracting and consulting. That means parallel experience. Some of the work was done in customer premises, just a cosmetic amount at the office in the few meetings we had and the rest from my home office. I have grown to be easily movable, a leaf blower will do. My personal effects on my desk consist of an external sound card, headphones, a blanket and shoes for indoors. My personally assigned items by the employer are my laptop, my chair and a small unit of drawers on wheels. There is some other stuff but it is not all that necessary.

This is my seventh team in 18 months. I do not hold a grudge, it was roughly according to plan. That means I have moved around a lot. Sometimes I have  carried my desk, a few times I loaded my stuff on top of my chair and the drawer piggy and pushed them to the next adventure. This time I unplugged my desk and carried it as it was to the new room. Even when I am flexible and do this a lot, it feels different from what I was introduced to at IBM around 2003.

They had a big open plan floor with lots of empty desks. They would come in the morning, roll their piggy next to a free desk, have a seat and start pecking the keys. This was because they wanted people to self-organize. At the end of the day they would clear the desk and roll their piggy to the piggy park and go home. I would feel homeless.

Growing individual people together as teams requires proximity and continuation. Even then it is not an automatic process. I have always moved from a team, to a team and sometimes with a team. There has been occasional non-co-location or more like dislocation in a team, which I consider a bad idea. Still, I have had my own place in the world where people can find me and I return to when I want to do something by myself. Living out of a locker is something for manual labor.

When the teams were formed, the first people to reach their rooms, immediately started carrying their computers to the new rooms, pushing piggies, then moving in some missing tables. In two hours my team had settled. The other teams did the same. The time allocated was more than one day. The only explanation I have is that people wanted to reorganize fast to finish the open tasks they do not want to move to the next team.

The most important thing for me was that I changed my mindset. My previous assignment was to work in a team as a test automation specialist for six sprints. I had settled for a life of a nomad. Change was the only constant. With my current assignment as a Scrum Master I wouldn’t leave my team for any price. I will not grow roots to the carpeting because the peak of an Agile team is to become independent of a Scrum Master. The stability of teams is an important part of sustainable pace.

In our local implementation of Scrum we have some coaches, that move from team to team at infrequent intervals. Another breed is the technical nomad. They generally work within a specific technical competence and cross-pollinate the teams. They will be members of a team for a set period of time and they move on.

We have no such thing as an agile hermit.