Archive for August, 2008

Road to Recovery…

After almost a year of this site getting attacked and neglected by me I’m finally making the push to bring it back.  Over the next few days, I hope to begin to make this something i am proud of again with a new clean theme, consistenly updated posts, and no stupid hacker code :(.  hopefully wordpress 2.5.1 keeps me safe this time

Collaborate Through the UI

Over the last weeks and months I have started to develop a theory of team collaboration. I have watched my team struggle with 1) internal team communication 2) external communication, and 3) motivation. I have heard over and over again “we’re not making any progress.” “What have we been doing for all this time?” At first, I was wondering the same thing: where did the time go? After reflection, I believe that my team IS in fact making progress, it is just that we have 1) made progress on intangibles and 2) allowed ourselves to drift a bit more than we should.

I believe that a major cause for this is our selection of tasks over the past few months. We have chosen ‘explore’ type tasks. Or design tasks. or infrastructure tasks. All of these are important and eventually need to get done; however, focusing on them in isolation has caused some serious problems. Although we are all in software and all of us know and understand that there is a whole more more to software than UI, the reality is that people, human beings, react to what they can see, touch and feel. I believe that if we had allotted just 20% of the infrastructure time toward UI, those “what are we doing” questions would dissolve. The reason: we can point and say: “that. that is what we have been doing”

I believe that ability to point and say ‘that’ has the potential to solve the three problems my team is having. First, a UI (even a nascent one) causes the whole team to get involved. When there is an interface to see, Designers want to contribute, PM’s want to argue over features, and project managers can explicitly see the holes that need to be filled. Second, where there is a UI, it is much easier for managers to communicate with executives outside the team. Third, when progress is visible, the team is motivated to continue to make progress. It is extremely easy to get stuck in a design, research loop. Working on the UI helps to break this loop by making it more clear exactly what is necessary and unnecessary at lower levels of the application.

What I describe above is not dissimilar to the XP concept of flow. All i’m saying is that for many teams, motivation hinges in the ability to see the fruits of their labor. I think many teams would benefit from investing a little bit more in the UI sooner than what would seem natural.