Thursday, August 19, 2010

Starting an XP Team

Driving home on July 4th weekend I had the sudden realization, not only did I desperately want to work as a part of an XP team, I thought it might be possible. If I could get two other devs, they could move into my office, we could get one more computer and we could all practice XP. Do pair programming, become a tight knit team, everything a guy could ask for. The challenge was convincing management and getting the two other people. I had a feeling getting the resources was going to be the most difficult part.

I had a few prerequisites for forming an XP team that was going to make it hard:

  1. Everyone needed to be full-time on the team
  2. No remote devs
  3. I wanted particular devs to be on the team

Why these prerequisites?

  • "Everyone needed to be full-time on the team" - To me this was a no brainer. I wanted to build a team, and I couldn't see how to build a cohesive group when you had people popping on and off constantly.
  • "No remote devs" - I've never been on an XP team or any team for that matter, never mind starting one. Having the additional challenge of working with remote people I felt would have set me up for failure. No point in trying if it's going to fail.
  • "I wanted particular devs to be on the team" - First off, I like and enjoy working with all my co-workers (Hi all!). There were going to be plenty of issues to work out that come with starting a new team. I felt it was important that we didn't spend too much time arguing about XP practices (TDD, pairing, etc.). There were a few co-workers I had worked closely with and I felt confident we were on the same page. For this first attempt at an XP team I thought it was important to have them be a part of it.

Why were these challenges for my company?

  • "Everyone needed to be full-time on the team" - Traditionally people work on 2-3 projects at one time, this means getting full-time resources requires some serious shifting of work.
  • "No remote devs" - Every project leader at my company prefers on-site devs. Giving my project 2 full-time devs means other projects have to rely more on remote devs. I like the other project leaders, I didn't want to make them mad by "stealing" their resources (Nor did management).
  • "I wanted particular devs to be on the team" - The two developers had some other commitments to projects, so it was going to be difficult to free them from those commitments.

Anyway enough background. Monday morning I was still bubbling with excitement. I talked with our VP of Operations to see if she thought I was crazy or if it might be possible. She seemed to think the idea was interesting, but there was a wrinkle, a big wrinkle. I could get a smattering of part time in house devs or some full-time remote devs, but getting two full-time in house devs on one project was just impossible. The question I asked myself was, "Is there something that can be done to still make this team a reality?" The company didn't have the resources to have three people full-time on one project, but what if the team worked on two projects? Two projects, three people, two computers and one office. Two projects would be more challenging for the team, but it still seemed doable. Our VP also thought it was a possibility.

I floated the idea a little more, people seemed interested especially our new VP of Technology. He was fully on-board and championed the creation of the team. Everyone thought it was an experiment worth trying, and now I'm a member of a three person XP team. Last Friday we completed our first iteration and I couldn't be having more fun.

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