This is not XP

Today is day 1 of iteration 1 of the new MDN durable team. There’s a lot of new vocabulary, including the agile vocabulary that means something different on every team. We did prep work last week. Some of the team took classes in user stories and formulating tasks. We went over some of the tasks as a team, and broke up into smaller groups for the other tasks. This gives us a backlog for our first 3 week iteration.

My experience is on co-located development teams, using Extreme Programming (XP). In the past, I’ve used Shore and Warden’s The Art of Agile Development, which describes the authors’ 37 practices modeled after XP and Scrum. It was very useful when I first led an agile team, and I’ve used it in agile teams since.

Chapter 4, “Adopting XP”, includes some prerequisites for using XP. Here’s how the MDN durable team measures up:

  1. Management Support – The marketing organization is mandating the agile process. We have to work with other Mozilla organizations who don’t.
  2. Team Agreement – The team attitudes range from acceptance to hostility.
  3. A Colocated Team – No two people share an office. The team members are all remote and cover US and European time zones.
  4. On-Site Customers – We have a product manager, who is new to MDN this year. MDN has many customers, from internal Mozilla teams that use MDN to document their interfaces to code schools that use MDN as a reference.
  5. The Right Team Size – There are 10 team members: 2 developers, 5 content creators, and 3 managers (Product, Project, and Program). We’re augmenting this with contractors and volunteers.
  6. Use all the Practices – It’s not being run as an XP project, and we couldn’t if we wanted to.

I’d rate us around 50% for the prerequisites. We can’t overcome some of these without big changes in the team.

The chapter also includes some recommendations:

  1. A Brand-New Codebase – Kuma is 6 years old, and forked from another project. Some of the content goes back to 2005.
  2. Strong Design Skills – I’m good when I start from scratch, like BrowserCompat. An existing code base takes a different set of skills, and I have some experience here too. The legacy content is a different problem, both working with it and convincing others to prioritize tackling it. I’m also not in charge, so my skills are often irrelevant.
  3. A Language That’s Easy to Refactor – Python wins. KumaScript loses, but maybe is fixable.
  4. An Experienced Programmer-Coach – I think everyone is new to the Marketing org’s process. We have lots of agile experience as individuals, but this seems like this is neutral at best at working with the new process.
  5. A Friendly and Cohesive Team – Most of the team members still think of themselves as either on the content team or the development team.

I rate us below 50% on being able to follow the recommendations.

I wouldn’t recommend this as an XP project. But it’s not. It’s adopting this other process, new to me. I’m realizing how irrelevant my experience is, other than learned trust that we’ll adjust as we go. There’s time for 11 iterations this year, 11 chances to adjust.

It will be an interesting 3 weeks, and quite a year.

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