As I mentioned at the time, one of my fellow managers gave notice two and a half weeks ago, with the result that his team got combined with mine.

Interesting couple of weeks. I had some ideas about how I might handle the transition, but they mostly got blown out of the water, for two reasons:

  • One of the members of the other team also gave notice (for apparently unrelated reasons).
  • We had some unusual high-priority interrupts. Of a positive nature, fortunately, but it did mean that normal planning went out the window.

Which, in its own way, turned out to be a good thing, because it admirably focused all of our minds. Rather than worrying about how the cultures would fit together, or having philosophical arguments, it was clear to all of us that we had to focus on doing two things as quickly as efficiently as possible: gathering what knowledge we could from the two departing programmers, and servicing the interrupts. Don’t get me wrong, I very much wish that both the departing programmers were staying with us, but at least their departure gave us a clear goal; the high-priority interrupts were all for the good, because it let us work together towards an important concrete end.

And those efforts were, as far as I can tell, quite successful. We all worked more than normal, and had to overcome problems (in both teams’ former domains); none of us had to work so hard as to burn out, and the code in both teams’ former domains was very much up to the task at hand. There were several opportunities for cross-team collaboration, too. So we know each other a little better (not that we didn’t know each other before – we’ve all been working in the same group of cubicles for the last few years, talking and eating lunch together all the time), and we’ve shown that we can get stuff done by working together.

Having said that, there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t get done. There were several things that I really would have liked to start two weeks ago that I only got around to starting today. (One-on-ones, for example.) We only just got started on September planning; honestly, I’m not completely sure we’ll get a good monthly plan in place until October.

What planning meetings we’ve had were instructive. In the first meeting, we tried to do full card estimation in the same manner that my old team had. And that took forever, for a few reasons: half the group was unfamiliar with what was involved in any given task, deciding between a half-point and a whole point took too long on many cards, and we went off on tangents. So in our second such meeting, we gave up on points, instead identifying candidate cards as either “too big” or “not too big”; we didn’t get on almost any tangents; and things went much more smoothly. But we still have a lot of task breakdown ahead of us, and very little estimation backlog built up, with the result that we might have to just play it week by week for the time being. (Another contributing factor is that more high-priority interrupts of an unpredictable nature are coming.)

Everybody is happy with daily standups, as far as I can tell. A reasonable amount of pairing going on. A reasonable amount of people working on tasks that had, in the past, belonged to the other team, though demarcations are very clearly present. I’m still managing to get my hands dirty occasionally.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot of challenges ahead of us. But now that I’ve finally been able to take a bit of a breather, I’m optimistic.

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