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The rule of three

By Mel Pullen

In one job I learnt about the rule of three.

It was couched in terms of when to use an enterprise mobile development platform.

Moving on, I discovered that the rule of three was about having things in threes because it’s easier to remember.

Now I have a challenging role to help a whole organisation become agile. Note, all of the company. Most of them don’t know how software is created, they have been working with documents and training for their lifetime.

There are currently just three distributed scrum teams producing software products to take this organisation into the SaaS market. The development is well hidden from most of the staff who still like to go to meetings with note books.

One morning I was sorting the laundry from the washing machine. That’s an agile meme  I thought to myself – “early order”. You get things ordered as early as possible to treat the groups in the same way. We order the backlog early so we can estimate the stuff that will be done soon.

I already had another meme. This one is more a metaphor – “work from the right hand edge”. That will be obvious to Kanban users. You pull from the right; you talk about the work that will take the least amount of effort to deliver. You see inexperienced facilitators working from the left. I did it for years.

And finally, the obvious one for agile. I’m doing it now; “always communicate”. This is one that is hard for developers because they love to have their head down working on some nice bit of refactoring.  I know, I’ve been a coder for 50 years. Take the widest bandwidth option; go and see someone. Act embarrassed, shuffle your feet, don’t make eye contact if that’s hard, but go and talk with people.

You think that changing culture requires a lot of communication. It does, but it should be conversations, not lectures in the form of documents or presentations. If you must write something down, write a list of things you want to discuss. Or draw a diagram on a white board, or in the dirt. The scrappier the better.

So, my three mantras to catalyse people who have no idea what agile is about. To help people learn new ways of working, to engage people you meet in discussion (there’s three reasons):

  1. Order early
  2. Work from the right hand edge
  3. Always communicate