Distributed Agile: Context
From my last couple of months working for ThoughtWorks in Pune I think the most common subject that I’ve heard discussed is how to ensure that the team offshore is receiving all the context about the decisions and direction being taken onshore.
What I’ve found most interesting is that I think out of all the teams that I’ve worked on in the last four years my current team has by far the most context about what the client wants to do and the approaches they want to take over the next few months.
I think the main danger of trying to provide this level of context is that it almost inevitably leads to over communication.
Three of my colleagues from Pune recently went to Chicago for a few weeks and having returned to Pune want to share the context they got in Chicago with us.
I’m a fan of pulling information when you actually need it so my preferred approach was to discuss each of the functional areas closer to the time that we’d actually be working on it rather than having the guys effectively do a brain dump on everything they’ve learnt right now.
My reasoning is that I find that I struggle the most to learn when someone gives me a whole load of information which I can’t really connect to anything - i.e. information out of context.
The new design of ThoughtWorks University provides an example of how learning in context can be very effective.
Interestingly I was significantly outnumbered by my colleagues when we voted on which approach to take. They preferred to receive the context up front rather than later on.
I decided to go to a few of the sessions anyway and while the context has been well presented, I am finding that I forget the specifics of those sessions pretty quickly since I don’t have anything to link the concepts to nor am I using the information I’ve learnt right now.
I’ve also noticed less and less people attending these sessions for similar reasons.
My opinion on this type of thing is that as long as I know where I can get the data from when I need it then that’s enough. I don’t need to have all the details up front.
I’m not sure if this observation has anything to do with the team being offshore, if it’s a cultural thing or none of the above.
It’d be interesting to hear about others’ experiences.