To succeed, an agile project demands outstanding collaboration among all its stakeholders. But great collaboration doesn’t happen by itself; it must be carefully planned and facilitated throughout the entire project lifecycle. Collaboration Explained is the first book to bring together proven, start-to-finish techniques for ensuring effective collaboration in any agile software project.
Since the early days of the agile movement, Jean Tabaka has been studying and promoting collaboration in agile environments. Drawing on her unsurpassed experience, she offers clear guidelines and easy-to-use collaboration templates for every significant project event: from iteration and release planning, through project chartering, all the way through post-project retrospectives.
Tabaka’s hands-on techniques are applicable to every leading agile methodology, from Extreme Programming and Scrum to Crystal Clear. Above all, they are practical: grounded in a powerful understanding of the technical, business, and human challenges you face as a project manager or development team member.
Build collaborative software development cultures, leaders, and teams
Prepare yourself to collaborate–and prepare your team
Define clear roles for each participant in promoting collaboration
Set your collaborative agenda
Master tools for organizing collaboration more efficiently
Run effective collaborative meetings–including brainstorming sessions
Promote better small-group and pair-programming collaboration
Get better information, and use it to make better decisions
Use non-abusive conflict to drive positive outcomes
Collaborate to estimate projects and schedules more accurately
Strengthen collaboration across distributed, virtual teams
Extend collaboration from individual projects to the entire development organization
Review By: Peter Clark 02/18/2008Collaboration Explained, by Jean Tabaka, bills itself as a comprehensive guide to planning and facilitating collaborative events. It does this within the frameworks of agile software development (not to mention, it's part of the Agile Software Development Series), but the techniques and strategies identified are applicable to any development methodology, or any other kind of meeting for that matter. The book is well organized and written with plenty of relevant anecdotes and tips that make it an interesting and entertaining read.
Collaboration Explained is broken into four major sections. In the first section, the author sets the context for why effective collaboration is important. She identifies different types of organizations and how poor collaboration can cause them to fail.
The second section is the meat of the book in which the author gives an in-depth, step-by-step process for planning and executing different kinds of meetings. She starts with pre-meeting planning, which includes identifying the purpose of the meeting; preparing participants; and setting the agenda.
In subsequent chapters she explains different types of meetings: status, planning, retrospectives, and brain-storming. A lot of ground is covered in these chapters, and the backing materials are supplied in the fourth section of the book where one can find sample agendas and tips for many different kinds of meetings.
My favorite chapter deals with how to manage meeting participants. I particularly like the part of this chapter that covers meeting dysfunctions and dysfunctional participants. This chapter is worth the price of the book itself. For example, she gives several suggestions for dealing with a "rambler" (someone I might describe as a "blabbermouth"). She lists five bullet points, such as "Ask the rambler to provide information in three or four bullet points," and "Ask the rambler to cut to the final point: 'I am having trouble following your thought. Could you cut to your final point please?'"
My second favorite chapter covers how to deal with conflict. The author makes several excellent suggestions on how to manage conflict, continually stressing (as she does through the whole book) that conflict is both necessary and healthy. Unfortunately, this chapter is rather brief for such an important topic.
The third section of the book deals with special topics in group collaboration. I particularly like the chapter on handling collaboration with a distributed team. Again, this is a rather broad topic that could have benefited from several of the topics being expanded into their own chapters (e.g., conference call collaboration practices and real-time interactive technologies for collaboration). Some references to other resources would have been appreciated as well.
The book also includes a comprehensive bibliography and index, though a brief description of why a work was included in the bibliography would have been nice. The references are also found in the text, but you have to dig to find them.
The book is clearly structured around collaboration in an agile programming environment. As such, it presupposes that the reader is already familiar with agile terminology and its processes. I suspect that I would have gotten much more from this book if I was more familiar with agile development. However, this book will be of great benefit to non-agile practitioners.
Collaboration Explained does a fantastic job of being both a reference and a tutorial. I am already using many of the tips and techniques in the book, and I plan to implement more. This book provides a wonderful guide for managing meetings, and I would highly recommend it to people who plan and attend meetings.
Review By: Lisa Crispin 02/18/2008We all know that it's not the methodology, tool, or process that makes a project successful. It's the people. Collaboration helps people do their best work and increases the chance of success. That's why the information in this book is so valuable. Once the first section has convinced you of why you need collaboration, the book goes on to explain how to make it happen constructively. The practices and tools in this book will help make any organization’s culture one that encourages working together.
Every meeting is an opportunity to reap the value of collaboration. This book presents a proven toolbox to help any kind of meeting, for any kind of group, in any context—distributed, fast-growing, or one-on-one. Readers will also glean tips on promoting collaboration after the meeting is over.
Although the book is aimed at process owners, project managers, team leads, and people who facilitate meetings, it is worth reading even if you're never in an encounter of more than two people. For example, asking the right questions is valuable even if you're not leading the meeting. Managing conflict is a skill we all need.
The best part of the book is the numerous anecdotes relating to the author's personal experiences—how she applied a particular tool in a situation, and what resulted. If you learn best by example, this is a great book for you.
Distributed teams present a common roadblock, and Collaboration Explained devotes a chapter to practices for distributed teams such as conference call collaboration practices, real-time interactive technologies for collaboration, and ways to collaborate without face-to-face interaction.
The last section of the book contains collaborative facilitation guides for all types of meetings, particularly the different meetings that are part of agile development. The author covers agenda items for each type of meeting, with prompt questions to get started, a process to use such as brainstorming or round robin, and tips such as when to use a timer.
I'm a tester on a team using Scrum and XP to produce a Web-based financial application. Although I have managed test teams in the past, I wasn't sure how well this book would apply to my day-to-day work. I'm a closet introvert, so the idea of facilitating anything scares me. Since collaboration is key to our team’s success, I thought it would be worth reading anyway.
Reading this book gave me extra motivation and additional tools to collaborate with our business experts, which helped our development team understand and deliver the value the business is looking for. Most of us aren't wild for meetings, but sitting in an unproductive meeting is the worst. Asking a simple question such as "Do we have an agenda for this meeting?" or "Is this discussion related to the purpose of this meeting?" can put the meeting on a useful track. Jumping up and diagramming the discussion or writing pros and cons on the whiteboard can go a long way to focusing a discussion.
I love the practical, concrete ideas in this book and the clear way they're presented. Multi-voting is a simple idea that helps the team figure out its priorities; our team uses this to great effect in deciding which areas we want to focus on improving. The "Pass the Cards" exercise, where each participant has thirty seconds to evaluate a brainstorming idea on a card and pass it on, is a great way to take advantage of a group’s synergy.
The reference section in the back was my favorite part of the book. I tried out ideas from the sprint review section right away, with positive results. If you have trouble communicating with coworkers or with people in other groups, or if meetings are driving you nuts, or if you're just looking for ways to make a difference, this book is a gold mine.
Whether we're in a management position or not, we can use collaborative leadership s