Taking Testbash to work

Well, as promised, this is the follow up to my earlier posts about Testbash.

I said that my colleague Bhagya  and I were going to use the materials from the excellent ‘Building Quality with Distributed teams’ workshop by Lisa Crispin and Abby Bangser  and run it in-house – and yesterday we did!

It ran for a whole morning – 3 hours, and to say that it was tiring was an understatement. I really had no idea how much it was going to take out of me, but I felt such a buzz afterwards, as did Bhagya.

We had 23 people involved (one couldnt make it), in order to have two teams. Each team was split into an onsite and offsite group, with us as Product Owners, and we had two fantastic observers (one was Michael @lopezma) to help who went upstairs to the meeting rooms we had secured for the ‘offsite’ guys. We had a travel freeze so could only stay with the onsite team. Communication between the two teams was therefore paramount! We needed to communicate timings of planning, sprints and retros to the observers so they could let the offsite team know.

Each team had a laptop for communicating over Skype, although that in itself caused some issues – exactly mirroring the problems that arise when relying on technology at times.

The objective was simple – to colour in pictures over a 3 sprint period, with the onsite team doing the first estimations. Sprints 1 & 3 would run in succession and then there was a break before sprint 3 for coffee and a whole team catch-up. The idea was that having had 2 iterations and retrospectives, the teams should be learning from their mistakes and assumptions, and putting things in place for the final sprint. Of course we threw in a few curve balls – I changed my mind and said crayons were not good enough, they had to use pens (but only one team had pens), anything brown had to be tan, and then I took a ‘holiday’ for half the sprint (3 1/2 minutes).

After the final sprint, we looked at what had been accepted, and I was obviously a tough taskmaster as I had rejected many pictures through quality issues (going over the lines, leaving gaps etc), but it was all good fun.

The roundup was interesting with a lot of thoughts shared in the room from both on and offshore teams around the problems they had faced – comms, offshore not knowing the full story of what the task was, not having enough work to do, not having any face time with the PO unless requested etc. So many assumptions had been made, and a lot of people who had been in the offsite team came to realise just how little information we pass to our offsite colleagues, and how hard it makes their job.

We asked for feedback and of the 23 people, 21 learned something new – the other 2 had experienced this before. There were many comments on what had been learned, and some useful feedback as to how we can improve things for next time. One thing I will do is ask for another helper to look after sprint timings, as it was hard to keep us all on track and be a Product Owner at the same time.

Yesterday was one of the best days I have had at work for a long time – making a difference to how we as an organisation can work with distributed teams. Absolutely fantastic! The work continues…..