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203RE: [scrumdevelopment] Splinter Department

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  • Paul Clanton
    Feb 5, 2002

      I’ve found that there are occasions when you may want to break away from the team.  For example, more risk averse organizations may not ever put experimental stuff at the top of the backlog.  A team member may just need a break to do something different, stretch their mental legs, learn something new, whatever. 


      One approach that I have had success with is to allow team members to take a short (e.g., two weeks) “sabatical” once or twice a year to explore other things.  This might be some unique training or noodling around with a crazy idea or two.  The deliverable is not a working piece of software—although it’s not discouraged—but rather knowledge gained and/or a fresh perspective that’s presented at a meeting on the last day of their sabatical.  There is no _handoff_ but rather a _sharing_ that occurs.  It’s sufficiently short so that the rework, if any, is minimal.  At the same time, it’s long enough for them to have taken the idea beyond the “thinking about it” stage. It helps everybody to recharge their batteries at regular intervals.  Moreover, you get new ideas and/or a fresh perspective without having to break in a new team member! 


      In contrast to the splinter department, this gives everybody an equal shot so that nobody can be accused of “running away”.  It happens at a regular, scheduled time, so nobody is surprised.  Finally, it makes good on the promise that many organizations seem to forget about regular training.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Jonas Bengtsson [mailto:jonas.b@...]
      Sent: Monday, February 04, 2002 9:50 AM
      To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: [scrumdevelopment] Splinter Department


      Thanks for your answer!

      It seems more reasonable to handle it (experiments/prototypes) within the
      team. And if people run away all the time, from the team, to do experiments
      I suspect the team will have a harder time to jell.


      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Mike Beedle [mailto:beedlem@...]
      > Sent: Monday, February 04, 2002 4:51 PM
      > To: scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: RE: [scrumdevelopment] Splinter Department
      > Jonas Bengtsson wrote:
      > > Hi,
      > > I've just read "Exploiting Chaos: Cashing in
      > > on the Realities of Software Development" by
      > > Dave Olson. In his book he proposes a
      > > "splinter department".  This department is a place
      > > where very uncertain ideas can be tested, a
      > > nursery for new ideas. For instance, if a person
      > > gets a bright idea he can, with the management's
      > > approval, go to the splinter department for a couple
      > > of months and experimenting with the idea. If the
      > > experiments turn out good he might start a pilot
      > > project and so forth.
      > >
      > > The main reason for this department is that
      > > some ideas are too risky to explore inside a
      > > project and that some ideas are distractions
      > > from the main goal of a project.
      > >
      > > Is there a need for such a department in a Scrum
      > > "environment"?
      > Jonas:
      > I am familiar with the book.  I read it in the mid-90s.
      > Scrum uses a more reengineered approach, a Case Team,
      > in Hammer's terminology.  A Case Team, by definition,
      > avoids hand-offs among teams, that require iteration
      > and rework among different teams, because those are
      > exactly the reasons why things get slowed down:
      > 1) you need managers to talk and agree to do work
      > 2) you need workers to take instructions from
      > managers/team leaders
      > 3) you need workers to report to management what
      > is going on, and
      > 4) managers to report to each other on progress,
      > etc.
      > (All the bureaucratic stuff that is undesirable and
      > slows things down, albeit, some of it is always
      > unavoidable.)
      > Instead in Scrum, new ideas are tried from within
      > the team, that is iteration and rework, if any,
      > stays within a single team.  Experiments or prototypes
      > are labeled as such in the Product Backlog.
      > And they are implemented when they are allocated
      > to the Sprint Backlog within a Sprint.  Progress
      > is reported through the Daily Scrums and the
      > decision to continue or to stop with the "experiment"
      > is evaluated daily.
      > In other words, Scrum mechanisms treat experiments
      > like any other task.  In that sense, Scrum techniques
      > are universal i.e. they work for _any_ kind of
      > work that the team needs to accomplish,
      > - Mike
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