Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Open-Topped Box

I'd always thought that my Preferred Working Arrangement™ was the classic "Developer In A Box" - keep them insulated from all possible sources of "noise", politics or distraction, feed them work to be done (and coffee) and results come out. It turns out that's not quite true. There's actually an even better arrangement; The Open-Topped Box.

I coined the phrase during a one-on-one with my boss; I was praising the way we'd been all working to see what was coming up next, and agreeing on priorities and how best to get maximum return for the lowest effort.

In a company-wide meeting, we'd been shown a 2-dimensional graph plotting (developer) effort versus (overall company) reward, something I'd never seen before (I don't know if it has a formal name or inventor):

You can intuitively see where you'd like every project or feature to sit ...

On the next slide it had been populated with various possible future initiatives marked appropriately; something like this:

The Big Boss then spent a good amount of time explaining his (very astute) reasoning of the potential business value of each proposed feature, and then delegated where necessary to get explanation of the development effort involved. In the end, it made it crystal clear why (to use the example chart above) Project E made the most sense to run with - providing the (equal-) most business value at the (equal-) lowest effort.

Although we were completely free to challenge the placement of anything on the two-dimensional chart, we couldn't fault it, and instead came away feeling both informed and energised for the next development push. So by all means keep your devs in a box; but let them see what's coming down next.

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