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What I've learned from working with the Poptype team

I started working as a Front End developer for Mynewsdesk just five months ago. The first four months I was part of the Poptype team, but I recently switched to working with the classical Mynewsdesk PR platform as a team lead for the team called the Pioneers. I learned a lot from working with the Poptype team, so I've spent quite some time reflecting on that to be able to bring as much of the good parts as possible into my new role. Here I will share some of those learnings.

Doing things in the right context at the right time

In Poptype there where almost no booked meetings. Except for standup and retrospects I can count the times we had a booked meeting on one hand. Yet it's probably the development team having most discussions away from the keyboards I've ever experienced, and overall the majority of those discussions have been really meaningful. The key to this has been to have the discussions in the right context and at the right time.

This has been achieved by having Team syncs as a natural part of the process. 

As soon as someone is about to start working on a new story, a team sync is called for. Everyone that joins (it's not mandatory) get the possibility to talk about what's needed to be done to fulfill the story. Team syncs takes different form depending on the story, it can be everything from just some short messages on slack to 45 minutes in front of a whiteboard. In the beginning we tended to get stuck in discussions, but after having it brought up on retrospectives a couple of times we got a lot better at it.

There are some really good things that comes out of the team syncs as I see it:

  • When implementing features (and getting feedback) decisions and concerns are fresh in mind.
  • It minimize the risk of spending time talking about stories that wont be implemented because of change of prioritization.
  • It ensures that knowledge of the product and reasoning behind implementation is spread.
  • When more people discuss a story it's much more likely that potential obstacles are found before choosing a path.
  • It helps keeping a common understanding about the system

Short feedback loop

When we started working together as a new team in October we decided that one of our principles should be short feedback loops. The key ingredient to this has been related to the syncing - review early, review often - is maybe the best description. In the same way as we've done syncs before starting stories we've done reviews before finishing them. We're using github for code reviews and review apps to make it easy to also review the UI and functionality. We also do reviews of concepts from the discovery track (more on that later) and designs.

We've tried to keep stories as small as possible to be able to get feedback early. Sometimes it's been hard though but when that has happened we usually have had reviews on the progress in between to be sure that we're on the right track. We've also been working with prototyping the UI first so that we can sync the real experience, this is a part where working with React has been really helpful.

Discovery is part of developing a product

The biggest difference in the Poptype team compared to most other teams I've been involved with is that Product owners, designers and developers all are in the same team, share the same process and is sitting very close together. It's really clear that even if there's different responsibilities everything is a team effort. 

There's two main tracks on the Kanban board, one for discovery and one for implementation. The discovery track is where the POs do most of their work, transferring a customer need to a concept that can be turned into Job Stories for the implementation track. However they do this in the same way as the rest of the team, with syncs and reviews where everyone can take part. 

It's also very common that the actual work includes other team members so that for example technical considerations can be taken into account, or maybe it makes sense to try out design ideas.

This is quite a big difference against the very common approach of having a Team Lead or Scrum master protecting the team from the PO and other stakeholders which often leads to a them and us feeling. By doing the opposite and really bring everyone together I've felt like we've been able to deliver much more quality and I feel like we've all been happier and prouder in what we're building in this way.

I truly believe that bringing PO teams and Implementation teams closer together instead of being in a client/manufacturer situation will help building better products. 

Culture

The main reason why all the above has been possible is because of the awesome culture in the team. 

It's a really caring and encouraging team that is great at giving and receiving feedback. It's also a team that challenges conventions and is focusing more on getting things done the way that suits the team best instead of using the way it "should" be. This makes a team that are constantly improving.

But the thing that I would say is the most significant characteristic for the Poptype team is that it's so open minded, being open is what helps it being Caring, Challenging and Improving. 

It's an awesome team, and I will truly miss working close to them, I really feel that once you've been a Poptyper, you'll always be a Poptyper. Good luck team!

Written by Andreas, @andreasarledal, former Front End Developer Poptype

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