How to use solutions-focused scaling for Agile Retrospectives

Most Agile retrospectives are about how the team is feeling e.g. happy, sad, confused etc. We then try and understand the cause of the problem so that we can fix it, in the same way that we try to debug an issue with a software program. This approach makes sense when dealing with complicated problems, such as software, which have direct cause effect relationships. However, when working with team dynamics, people interactions and feelings, we are working with, and within, a complex system that doesn’t have a direct cause and effect relationships.

Trying to understand the root cause of something in a complex system can take a lot of time, and isn’t necessarily helpful in finding the desired solution. In complex systems, there is no direct relationship between a problem and the desired solution – this is one of the things that defines a complex system

Solutions-focused approaches to change[1] have shown that a more direct approach for complex systems is to investigate for clues of where evidence of the solution you want is happening already and do more of it. In addition you can also identify small actions to take, like mini-experiments, to see if these actions nudge the complex system in the direction of the desired solution.
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How and Why We Run the REA Graduate Programme

O(n) Week Day 1, 2015 – Somewhere in the Yarra Valley, Victoria: A group of fresh young faces gather in small groups around a house-cum-conference-centre nestled amongst the trees. A communal dinner has been shared and there are beers and soft drinks in-hand: some play pool, some cluster around a newly learnt eurogame, some just chat. Our 2015 graduates are starting to relax and unwind at the end of their first day of (O)n Week.

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Why team managed infrastructure makes sense

Over the past 12 months REA Group has been moving towards a structure where individual teams will manage their own infrastructure.

Why?

Start ups (or companies that behave like one) should already have devops culture. At REA Group we’re trying to bring a startup feel to individual teams, so engineers at the team level can decide on what new technology they want to try out, test and learn ahead of the rest of the organisation, and ensure the company stays adaptable and ahead of the curve.

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Getting Shit Done

This post was originally published internally, as an appeal to REA colleagues.

“Getting Shit Done” is the catchphrase on everybody’s lips, and deservedly so!  When we deliver new functionality, our users regroup and flock to us, our customers grudgingly respect us, and our shareholders rejoice.  When the novel concepts invented by our product managers take shape as they watch, their eyes light up with pride and enthusiasm.  Programmers are never happier than when fire and magic fly from their fingertips; products that change people’s lives materialise from thin air, and insurmountable problems melt like butter.  Beer flows freely, parmas are devoured and our managers circulate glowing praise within the company.

We have all felt the opposite too; long months gone by without new features, frustrated and bored developers; product managers forced to nervously adjust their collars and disappoint their superiors, with often dense technical reasons they can barely hope to convey.  New features pop up like mushrooms on our competitors’ sites, and we wonder: why didn’t we do this years ago?

Yet when I hear this phrase “Get Shit Done”, I grimace; my teeth clench and my back involuntarily stiffens.  Why?  There is truly nothing I want more, and it is clearly important; many of our most talented teammates live by it.

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Hack Day 101 (and why it’s essential for your business)

Employee led innovation is nothing new.

Google 20% time is acknowledged for producing a number of key product innovations like Gmail and Docs (although it’s understood they have officially killed off that perk). Over at Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke extensively of “The Hacker Way” in their IPO filing to the SEC.

What is not as widely known is that employee time can be traced all the way back to Post-WW2 in the United States. It was 1948 and multinational manufacturer 3M instigated “15% time“. In 1974 an employee by the name of Art Fry used this time to develop a means of applying an adhesive to the back of a piece of paper and the post-it note was born.

In addition to the Silicon Valley titans, several companies have embraced employee time to foster innovation, all with pretty cool names: BlueSky (Apple), [in]Cubator (LinkedIn), Hackweek (Dropbox), The Garage (Microsoft), ShipIt (Atlassian).

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Language use at REA

As previously discussed we’re pretty keen on micro services at REA. Our delivery teams are organised around small, autonomous “squads” that get to choose pretty much any language and technology stack they wish to implement their solutions.

This inevitably leads to a fairly broad church of language use. 🙂

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