Making it Work: Specialists on an Agile Team

In some lines of business, such as consulting, the organizational business goals require a certain amount of specialization in order to deliver to clients efficiently and with high quality. These organizations also typically bill by the hour, meaning downtime is a serious cost to the business. This can be difficult in an agile development model as these specialists often create silos of knowledge. Also, these specialists often get pulled in many directions and their availability is not always predictable.

How do you make it work with a typical Scrum-like agile team?

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How I know a project plan is total nutbars… and how it can be fixed

ScrumWe have all seen the magical project plans that have no grounding in reality. Schedules are far too aggressive, scope is beyond what the team can handle, not enough resources available to properly run the team… all to meet some magical “hard deadline” that has been imposed seemingly without any reason.

The folks in charge of these plans are not evil – they may just have somebody enforcing a deadline on them and are trying every possible thing to draw a picture to meet that deadline so they don’t get fired. These people are members of our team and we cannot leave them struggling alone. As architects and technical subject matter experts, we need to help our team members make their complete nutbar of a project plan into something that makes sense in the real world we live in.

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What type of agile superstar are you?

In a world of deadlines, tight budgets, and high expectations, sometimes we need that superstar on the team that can “get it done” so we don’t make our clients look bad.  On the many teams I have led, this superstar has shown up in a few different incarnations:
Delivery Quadrant - Superstars

  1. The Hare
    You want it done by 2pm? No problem. The Hare has no issue with short deadlines because the Hare can get it done in 15 minutes. What’s that you say? The senior team that estimated the work thought it would take at least 2 days? No problem, the Hare still thinks it can get done in 15 minutes. Lo’ and behold, 15 minutes later everything has been coded up, checked in, and the Hare is off to save another project from certain doom. The fact is that it hasn’t been tested, and maybe not 100% of the requirements are in there, and perhaps it has a few paths where a nice 500 error gets served…but that’s not a problem, because that’s what the rest of the team is for, right?
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