It started like any other day. I was thinking about what all CEOs think about – the possibility of finding a robust development methodology to become more efficient; to improve our production processes.
On this particular day, I was scheduled to visit the offices of a local software company in Paris. This company had supposedly solved all of its internal problems surrounding production by using a lean software development methodology. Partly out of curiosity and partly out of disbelief, I arranged a meeting to gather ideas for how we could solve our problems at Playsoft.
Appetizer: A Baptism By Fire
My introduction to this development methodology was by no means a timid first date; it was more of a baptism by fire. The moment I walked through the front door, I immediately noticed the number of boards scattered across the office. Each board contained what seemed to me indecipherable charts, graphs, and sticky notes.
Something else I noticed was how in-sync each team member was. In one instance, a developer asked across the table about a particular task, the producer turned arund to look at a wall of sticky notes, and responded with extensive detail about what would be involved and how long it would take.
I was awestruck. Too many times, our projects had fallen behind because of miscommunications between developers, producers, game designers, etc. How were these teams able to know what is going on in each part of production?
I soon found out, as I was placed in front of a product team’s Scrum board and asked to explain what was going on in the project.
Puzzled, I did my best to deduct the meaning behind the various graphs, charts, and text on the board. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to interpret everything on the board if you’re a logical human being, particularly if everything is labeled well.
However, it does help to have some background information about how a company manages their workflow and tracks a project’s progress. So my hosts added some more fuel to the fire by asking me to observe and participate in a Scrum Dojo.
Main Course: The Scrum Dojo
I watched as the Scrum Masters and various team members gathered in a corner around an empty easel. My host suddenly pointed at bespeckled developer holding a board and asked him to bring his board forward.
Before beginning, my host explained that a Scrum Dojo is a 20-minute standup workshop where a team’s board is reviewed and critiqued by other members of the company. This exercise tests both the team’s ability to produce an interpretable board and the ability of employees outside of that team to read and comprehend a board they have never seen before.
The process is simple: the team whose board was selected must remain silent during the critique period. A member of another team reads through the charts to ensure that the information is clear and logical to an external viewer. As the reader finds mistakes, he/she adds a sticky note to the board with the date and the error so that the team can go back through and correct the board. The reader must also state why the board is incorrect based on Agile principles.
Dessert: The Asakaï
After completing the Scrum Dojo, the rest of the employees gathered for the company’s Asakaï. The Asakaï is a 15-minute company-wide meeting during which time the meeting’s leader states the company’s objectives and goals for the year. He/she also makes announcements regarding new sales, projects currently in production, events, hiring, and anything else.
Stating the company-wide goal was, to me, incredible yet so simple. Reminding your employees about the revenue goal and telling them how close they are to that goal each week is such an easy way to align everyone’s efforts. That was something we could easily implement at Playsoft.
Reinforcing this message each week, plus disseminating information to your employees provides full transparency, something an ever-increasing majority of the workforce demands. These meetings make the organization more cohesive as it works towards an ultimate goal.
The Drop Off
At the end of the “date,” I realized that I had found something truly incredible. Here was a company that leverages a development methodology to eliminate waste, increase communication, and reduces production time. The process promoted problem-solving skills and a willingness to improve in each team member, qualities that existed in Playsoft but were not fully utilized.
Perhaps this was the answer I had been looking for to make the next step in improving our company. A second date might be in order.
—Nicolas Bensignor, CEO, Playsoft