Group Coherence for Project Teams - Continuous Improvement


efforts to deliver a "safe" and tested feature set become little more than guesses. The developers have to attempt all their testing in the System Test environment. This is like developing blind as this environment lacks the connections to the system's external integrations.

The project team's group product consists of all the features and all the tests. Centralizing the release process fragments group ownership. Developers focus on unit and system tests and don't have access to accomplish the full set of critical tests. The release team can focus on the tests the developers can't execute but release engineers do not have access to the code. The result surfaces technical debt that neither team is empowered to own. When responsibilities for the group product are fragmented, no whole group exists to own that product. Practice by the whole ownership group could improve both the release process and catch technical debt earlier.

Challenges - Code Quality
Customers and product owners may press the project team for a wide feature set and an aggressive delivery date. This can compromise code quality, causing the developers to express concern. The two groups might have a different interpretation of the Agile principle for "minimizing the work not done". Customers might think that refactoring is unnecessary waste since this effort results in no visible changes to the application. They often challenge the value of what they might describe as "writing the code twice". However, once a feature is implemented, an Agile development team refactors the code to make it more efficient to run, cheaper to maintain and easier to extend. So who does the code quality belong to? The customers are paying for the work but the developers have a fiduciary duty to ensure that the customer receives maximized value. The code quality is part of the whole-group product. This disagreement shows that in this case the true communication never happened. The need is to resolve the disagreement and create collaboration.

Code quality is built into the software over time. If the opportunity for collaboration is limited to the final stages of release preparation, the ability to identify deficiencies in code quality is also limited. An occasional look at the system does not provide the opportunity to develop trust, align goals and expectations, and learn to communicate effectively as a team.

Practice to Enable Whole-Group Ownership
We would like to share our personal experience of one way in which we have turned the tacit group ownership of release process, technical debt and code quality into a conscious seamless part of the day-to-day interactions of a whole project team. In a financial risk management system like the one in this example, projects waited until a complete financial model was implemented in C. Once the traders validated this model, the developers could begin to extend their risk management system to use it. After this software development was complete, operations and support processes could be created. These sequential handoffs were an established project life cycle.

When market conditions suddenly invalidated an existing financial model, a business need arose to extend the risk management system considerably without knowing what replacement model to use. Using an invalid model put traders at great financial risk and under considerable stress to manually adjust every quoted price. This was a crisis that could not wait for a sequence of handoffs over the next 12-18 months.

Instead, by initiating communication with all the stakeholder groups simultaneously, it became clear that each had a part of the process and also a part of the solution. To make the communication among the stakeholders both practical and concrete, developers

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