But Did We Enjoy Doing It?

Photo of Bill Basler working

So what is Operation Overnight?

The ultimate test of team dynamics. A collaboration of goals. And, a leap of faith into the unknown. You’re put on a team you don’t work with regularly. You have one day to build a new Web site. From scratch. At the end of that period of time, it has to be delivered. To make it even more challenging, you don’t really know many of the requirements going in.

If you got that project at work, I’m sure you’d think about getting the old resume together. What happens if you don’t get it done? What if there are too many requirements? What if you don’t like the people you’re working with? How do you know if your deliverable will be good enough?

All these are logical questions you’d come up with in a traditional working structure. So why did the people who did that project get done with it, and feel great and make comments like “that was so much fun!” or “I hope I get to work with all of you next year!”?

Two of the keys to great team success is to create a low stress environment and to define exactly what the goal is.

If I went on to say that this site was for a client we never worked with before, and that our “day” was actually going to be 24 actual continuous hours of work and that we were all going to sit together in one room until it was finished, would I be making the case for or against doing this project?

Turns out, these are some of the key elements that made this project possible.

Define exactly what the goal is: We didn’t know hour 1 or hour 6 what our deliverable would be. We only knew it would be a website. We also knew that we’d always have a deliverable website, hour after hour. There was no panic of “being unable to deliver.” Our target stayed the same over the course of our day, but the size of our target logically changed as the team learned and shared information.

It was really easy to share that information when we were in a highly collaborative space. Feedback and information was never more than a conversation away. Gone are the stressful delays in waiting for feedback. “How does this look?” You got an answer immediately. “Can I get some help with this?” Sure, let me take a look.

We didn’t have to schedule time on anyone’s calendars. We just did what we should be good at doing as humans. Talking and interacting with humans who have a common interest and goal.

We also had clients in the room with us! We didn’t hide our work till it was “good enough” to show them. We were constantly asking what they thought. By the end, we could read each other’s minds, scary as that may sound!

We were allowed to be in a place of lower stress because we only had one solitary goal. Our implementation of Agile says we should focus on a responsible amount of something. We didn’t have distractions (stress!), so we were able to focus on getting to our goal.

How did we create a low stress environment? If I also said this team allowed its members to regularly leave for any reason they wanted to or that the team played HORSE outside at 10:00 p.m. or that the team did the Cha Cha Slide at 1:00 a.m. or that some even took naps, would you think we were working? Sometimes it didn’t feel like it. Yet we all felt highly productive.

All of these things were actually helpful in keeping people focused on the tasks at hand. The human brain doesn’t work best when put it under a lot of stress. Some might say they work better under stress, but what they are really saying is they work best when they approach their deadline and fear of failure kicks in. That’s not generally a positive.

We had organic, positive distractions to keep us charged up and constantly reenergized.

And at 4:00 a.m. (four hours before we had to be done) we would have all felt pretty good about launching the website we’d worked on. We had a few tweaks here and there. But we’d established, as a team with our client (the wonderful folks from YouthPort!) what it meant to be Done.

Everything else just fell in place.

Check out the awesome site at http://www.YouthPort.org. It was a pleasure to work with such an awesome team with the folks at Geonetric and the great people at YouthPort!

Till Operation Overnight 2014…

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Kevin Reiter

About Kevin Reiter

Kevin speaks two languages. English. And developer. As our Scrum Master he is in charge of continuously improving our development process. He is the force behind sprint planning and retrospectives and can skillfully balance when to say no and when to push for more results. And since we have the best healthcare-specific content management software on the market, he’s doing a pretty good job. When he’s not organizing cross-team collaboration, he’s thinking about fantasy football and how to apply Agile principles to his home life.

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