20 Questions

Agilists are everywhere.

We come in all stripes.

Combine these two observations and you realize that at any time the opportunity can present itself to broaden your perspective on Agile practices.  When we meet other practitioners, it’s routine to ask a few basic questions; but if we take a disciplined approach to our inquiry, the encounter becomes a powerful learning experience for both parties – and one that frames the shared memory of the relationship’s inception.

20 Questions

I’ve recently come up with a list of 20 questions. The list isn’t static – it changes often. The questions themselves can range from the standard (team size, iteration length) to the unexpected (do you allow whining?), and I try to include one or two fun questions to make this exercise not seem like… well, an ‘exercise’.

Here’s a partial list focused on the day-to-day:

  • How many teams do you work with?
  • What are the sizes of the teams?
  • Are Scrum roles defined?
  • What’s the iteration length?
  • Has there been an Agile champion in senior management from the beginning?
  • Is there a dedicated Product Owner (PO)?
  • How do you deal with drive-by interruptions?
  • Was the entire organization trained on the application of Scrum and how it would affect them?
  • Have you considered Kanban?
  • How do you balance between features that require a lot of details and delivering just enough just in time?
  • Are your teams co-located? If not, how do you collaborate with distributed teams?
  • Was the exec team on board with Agile adoption, or how did they otherwise buy-in?
  • Is there a scrum of scrums?
  • How do you show results to C-levels and keep them engaged?
  • Do you integrate regular Hackathons or Dev Days?

I’ll also ask a few personal improvement questions:

  • Where do you see yourself in 3,5,10 years? (What drives you?)
  • Are there any trainings/books/podcasts/conferences would you recommend?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • How are you involved in your community?
  • What person/people do you know that I should get introduced to?

Again, the point is not to interrogate these poor souls that you just met. I’m certainly not advocating that you read off this list and ask every question. Save that for the job interview 😉 Rather, I’m suggesting to use a few questions like these to not only break the ice, but to fast-track a sharing of your own views and experiences with the goal of reaching a broader understanding of who we are as agilists.