When a teammate drops by with a request – say YES! Members of an agile team help each other relentlessly! What’s more, the alternatives to saying “yes” are anathema to an agile team: Think about it, or just say NO.
Think about it?
You could choose to think deeply about whether the request is consistent with your current job description. The challenge with this approach is that while you’re thinking about the relative contours of you and your colleague’s job descriptions, you’ve stopped thinking about your job. If your requestor then attempts to impact the calculus you’re performing, then neither of you is thinking about your job. Over time, a culture that doesn’t apprehend the toxicity of this type of reasoning will come up with mechanisms to short-circuit the decision, so that all interactions occur through well-defined channels. At this point, your team will no longer be agile.
Just say No?
Alternately, you could simply insist that all requests come through a controlled channel – a ticketing application, for example. In this way, the request will benefit from the prioritization, categorization and tracking mechanisms provided by the application. The challenge with this approach is that it forces casual ad hoc requests through the same channel as legitimate work items. You now have to understand the request once just to get it into the system with the right priority, categories, tags and comments, and then again when you eventually address it. Addressing this dilemma will inevitably lead to a more ridged structure and less spontaneous communication – collaboration will be hampered by boarder disputes. Your team will no longer be agile.
Can I really just say YES?
Yes! When your teammate approaches you with a request, there is an implicit question being asked: “am I worth your time?” YES!
More pointedly, are you willing to stop what you’re doing and instead apply yourself to understanding your teammate’s request? YES!
Agile productivity can be difficult to quantify. The most valuable players may spend much of their time collaborating and helping others, and these types of contribution are very difficult to measure. But we all know that! We know that managing an agile team requires faith in the human spirit and the nurturing of an invisible sum that is greater than its parts. But we also know that agile teams are uniquely capable of achieving that allusive hyper-productivity, and do we want that? YES!