Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Red Teaming

One of the things we talk about at work is eliminating group think and an approach to do this is using red teaming.

For those not familiar with the term, red team comes from the military and originally stood for a team that represented the opposition. It has since expanded to include any team that might challenge the status quo..aka, group think. 

So how does this apply to the agile world? Even agile teams can get stuck in group think. A great example is during story estimating. If you don’t use planning poker cards, the senior developer might say “oh, that’s a 5” and everyone else agrees, they become anchored to his estimate. Someone else might have had a different opinion (that’s going to be a 21 because we have to create a new database table) and they may be right, but they succumb to group think and let the 5 point estimate go. The obvious solution here is to use planning poker cards but sometimes as a coach I need to point this out to teams. 

Group think can happen during any agile activities. During retrospectives, I coach my teams on the approach of each person writing ideas on post-it notes in silence and then discussing them as a group. 

 Think, Write, Share

This way, ideas can surface before group think can crush them.

Red Teaming can be applied elsewhere as well. Another place I like to use it is at the end of a planning session. The team has finished selecting stories to work on for the iteration, they have set their sprint goal and they’re ready to start. At this point I stop them and ask “what could go wrong with this plan?”  This is another good place to inject “ think, write, share” and start a discuss about risks and responses to them.  So be on the lookout for group think and bring in a red team if you need to counter it.