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Agile Principle Part 6: Face to Face Conversation

by Ken Rickard

Dec 11, 2017

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation

You ever been on a conference call? You're talking and there is only silence on the other end. Are they making faces? Are they talking about you while on mute? Are they even listening? If only we had those Jetsons video phones... oh wait we do kinda.

Let's break this principle down...

Conveying Information To and Within a Development Team - I will regularly confess that I lack the skills to be a good speller, thank goodness for spellcheck. But one time in 7th grade I made the school spelling bee. Not because I was good at spelling, but rather because everyone in my English class decided to purposefully misspell an early word, and they didn't tell me. The joke was on me, and so myself and the smartest person in our grade went on to the finals. Oh course I was out in the second round.

Looking back on this it took roughly 25 seventh graders, all from separate walks of life, and social groups to create a plan and effectively distribute it around the class without somehow letting me know. That took a level of coordination that seems impossible at that age in the 1980s. Word of mouth was the only technology in those days.

But as effective as that prank was, it's not funny when teams can't build great products because of dysfunctional communication. If communication is a problem where you are, what could be causing it? What is the relationship like between development and the business? Has years of dysfunction and failure to deliver on business expectations left this relationship on the brink of collapse?

It should be needless to say that Agile promotes a healthier relationship with the business, willingness to participate considered. The core of that beneficial relationship is regular communication. Hopefully that communication is happening face to face, and as a collective group more often than not. Lack of communication can lead to lack of trust between development teams and the business. If you're already far down the rabbit hole of distrust, don't expect an immediate turn around via Agile. There is no silver bullets. It probably took years to get where you are now, it might take years to reverse it. But you have to start somewhere. Model your actions, behavior, and language after the principles of Agile and see if things start to loosen.

Hey I just thought of another childhood right of passage, the telephone game from elementary school. We know how that ends, humiliation for the final person in the chain as they speak out loud the words they heard passed to them down the line. Do they even play that game anymore in school? I hope, if only to prove that group communication is the best form of communicating, instead of one off hearsay.

Face to Face Conversation - Thinking about face to face conversation makes me thing of co-located teams, and the benefit that comes with having the whole team all in the same room as often as possible. On the other hand more and more people are working remotely. How does this impact face to face communication? I think we all know email is generally a poor form of communication, and has been since its inception. Emoji are trying there best to fill the void left by textual communication. But there is a whole generation that is left behind by this way of communicating. Age wise, I think I'm right on the edge of that group. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But now-a-days there are awesome tools to help bring remote teams together. I'm looking at you Slack, HipChat, and MS Teams. These tools include all the standard things you would expect like chat, video, groups, file sharing, bots, and more coming all the time. So if you can't be physically located together, you can still make virtual togetherness work with just a little more effort.

This 12 part series was published by Ken Rickard on LinkedIn Pulse, to read the original version of this blog click hereTo read the entire 12 part series, click here for a table of contents. 

Interested in learning more about the Agile Methodology or incorporating it into your business? Contact a representative at CCG by emailing or call (813) 265-3239.