Quick like a bunny, let me just sketch a great coaching tool I almost always use. I’ve applied it to teams from all over, and in every state of expertise and will. It’s called “lottery learning”.
Have a session, 90 minutes to two hours, with a room, a projector, and all those who directly change repository contents. Choose one of those people at random. Ask them to project whatever they’ve been working on. Discuss.
That’s it. Really.
What It Does
Basically, lottery learning works simultaneously on several wonderful levels.
Energy: this is one of the best ways there is to build excitement, energy, and what I call geek joy. It can readily bring teams full of embittered old hands back to the party as stars. Keep it fun!
Geek Skill: this is particularly awesome in that it works whether the presenter is a coach, a master or a noob. The most powerful motivator of all is the potential approval from your peers.
Informal Standard-Setting: This is the secret bomb for me. Without even knowing they’re doing it, the team works out a consensus about what is good code and what is poor, and the beauty of it is that it works whether they’re all awesome programmers or all random street-typists.
Coaching Site: Of course, the coach can use this time to great effect, in two different directions. First, it provides a very accurate means of assessing the skills progress of both groups and individuals. Second, it presents an absolutely perfect opportunity for teaching. Either way, its remarkably non-threatening to most folks. (But see pro-tip #2 below.)
- It’s a good idea to restrict this meeting to only those who directly change repository contents. That’s an awkward idea, but I want to include testers and technical leads, while still suggesting that pure managers are not really welcome.
- Don’t be afraid to cheat on the first three or four lotteries. Some folks, though fewer than might be expected, are very nervous about this process until they see how the informal geek leaders handle it.
- I’ve had the most success with up to three times a week, and keeping a same bat-time same bat-channel to the sessions.
- Food is good. When I do a lottery *lunch* and learn, I extend the session to two hours, see next tip.
- What can managers do? Their role is really to bless the proceedings. They can make the sessions special and help the right people attend. They can supply the food. I’ve had teams where the manager brought a case of beer in at 3 pm.