As you know, the lottery learning activity is one of my favorites. It combines modeling, situating, inviting, releasing, and even a little sorting — for most teams.
A commenter wrote recently about a situation where a team just isn’t ready for the lottery:
I have several members in my team who feel very threatened about any kind of review, and get very defensive when its suggested. For example, a while ago during a version control system usage discussion, I suggested that we might want to do ad-hoc peer reviews (for readability, not correctness) as a requirement for code promotions.
This met with a lot of hostility, a lot of which was due to egos being crushed in the past (people being told they were wrong or stupid, or being criticised).
Two Quick Coaching Lessons
There are two quick lessons just in this problem statement.
First: never underestimate the potency of prior fuck-ups, especially those marked by by weak or indifferent interpersonals. Coaches must work hard to bring a ‘newness’ to their ideas, and to their own personality, too, so that they’re not perceived in any way as “same as before”.
Second: building agile teams is always custom. Have no doubt, there’s no coaching action anywhere that is a guaranteed winner. Lottery learning has served me wondrously, but just from the short description above, I agree with Joshua that it’s the wrong choice for this team at this time.
The Missing Invitation
It’s absolutely clear that my old buddy lottery learning is the wrong place to start with this team. It’s not only not inviting, but is maybe even actively un-inviting.
Joshua gave the good suggestion that maybe he should do a non-lottery learning: pick himself or some other gung-ho person on the team, project that code and talk it over.
That’s a great idea. Certainly the beginning of the inviting pillar is to realize that scary = unpleasant = harder to inculcate.
For best results make sure this chosen person is a laugher. Do you have a pro, including possibly yourself, who can get them all laughing at code together?
Also, I’d certainly make it a two-hour lunch+learning if I could. Food eases everything.
Devising Exciting And Pleasant Activities
There are at least two other responses which may seem more inviting to the team.
Study-Group Lunch is just what it says. A two-hour lunch and learn, on consecutive chapters of a book. If you want to keep the lottery aspect, do one at the *end* of a session, to choose the one who’ll present the next chapter.
What book? Almost anything less than 10 years old and having a lot of code and code advice in it.
DoubleDawgDare sessions are also fun, if you’re a strong presenter. Show them an untouchable file getting step-by-step into a proper frame. Arrange it so you can ask questions like “what’s my next move?”, as well as taking some ‘optional’ refactoring, where you ask them whether it makes things better, worse, or just the same.
But you don’t really need to hear my list of activities. Instead, let’s get some fresh blood in here:
Tell Us Your *Inviting* Idea
For Approaching Internal Code Quality!