Being in the room where it happens

A key part of Agile ways of working is being (as Lin Manuel Miranda would say — tiny bit obsessed with Hamilton!) in The Room Where It Happens.

It really makes a difference to have everyone sat around the same table, or stood around the board, hearing the conversations and being party to debate. You can hear the outcomes of the user research, understand the acceptance criteria, and see the thing as it develops.

If you have to be remote, you need to work even harder to make it work. I’ve been remote managed (admittedly not on an agile team), and it is hard to build the same relationship as you have with the person over the desk. Picking up the phone to your manager to have a “how was your evening, did you see Corrie?” conversation started off feeling really unprofessional, but it’s that sort of thing that helps you to know one another and really builds trust. Just because it is your manager, it doesn’t mean you always need to talk business. Take the time to build your relationship.

But, back to being in the room. This is a step change for me. Before joining an agile team I worked remotely, and could easily get through the 9–5 without seeing another person. I would spend an awful lot of time on the phone, but I would have that solitude when I put the phone down. And as an introvert, this was a really comfortable place for me to be.

Walking into a fully formed agile team as the new girl was a big step. I’m not showy, and I found seeing all these people every day (every. single. day.) was really really hard. The noise and the banter…many a day I wanted to run back to my quiet little office and hide. But then I realised just how the agile magic works!

I saw things growing and developing in the room. I saw people share what they were doing, their blockers, and how they worked together to solve them. People were so open with their work, shared it with me, and were interested in what I was doing. I saw how people listened to each other, respected and shared opinions, and worked together to make the best thing for the user. I saw people show that thing, take the criticism and make it even better. I saw the magic happen.

And yes, it can still be a deep breath to get into the swim of the day. But I am working (and have worked) with some great people. I want to stay in the room where it happens.

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