When a team comes together there can be a fundamental change. The friendship becomes more important than defending our existing beliefs and we allow multiple viewpoints to coexist and contribute to a more complete whole. I’ve never seen this happen consistently, except in the team I have worked with for over 10 years. The team has some strong personalities with diverse viewpoints, but the friendship, or you could call it fellowship, in the team has turned these differences into an advantage. Through these differences we discover better solutions to our problem, but we need to spend some time together to do it.
When we started working closely together we had some real problems. Whilst I believed through the books I had read, that we should be writing stories and not defining solutions until we started building, a particularly vocal team member believed we should define tasks during a planning session and that we should agree what we were going to build before we started. Looking back I think he was rightly concerned about what would happen if he just left a developer to go it alone, at the time we weren’t working closely enough with each other or our stakeholders.
I had no idea that this friction was exactly what we needed. I saw it as an impediment. I assumed he was being pigheaded and controlling. But over time as our friendship and trust grew, we began to learn that if we weren’t going to design up front, we would need to ensure that the team was involved all through the lifecycle of the story. We moved to pair programming, but that still wasn’t enough. We got better at collaborating on each story and demonstrating to the whole team on a daily bases (yes, we like big stories) and then the trust was there. My friend let go and we no longer do any design up front, instead we discuss how we are going to collaborate on the story as it progresses. I wonder if we could have reached this point earlier through more dialogue or it needed to emerge in its own time as we learn’t more by doing? What’s important is that fear and power struggles reduced and we stopped defending our position. From there, we moved forward and found a solution that was better than either of us could envisage alone.