Trying to be more collaborative? Try n-1

What team isn't trying to be more collaborative these days? However one of the problems you can face as a Scrum Master is how do you encourage the team to work closer together or work with other teams more?

Many experienced developers and more enlightened companies are well aware of the advantages of XP (eXtreme Programming) including practices such as paired programming, However I've often encountered developers who.... Rather unfortunately fit the media's stereotype of the 'geeky developer' working alone in a corner they just don't want to work with other developers - let alone testers or the wider business!

I attended an Agile meet-up recently and spoke to a few companies who had decided that paired programming was so important that they would include a paired development exercise as part of the interview process... They didn't want developers that couldn't pair up..... even if they were 'Rock Stars'! Well that's one way of ensuring you only recruit people who can work with others!

Teams who are doing good Kanban will already be aware of the advantages of imposing WIP (Work in Progress) limits - Getting these as low as possible usually results in shorter lead times to delivery.

But have your tried setting the WIP limit on the development team to 1 less than the size of the team? or n-1?

Doing so immediately means that one member of the team cannot pull another story from the backlog! They are 'forced' to pair up with a fellow developer and assist them in completing a task - or they could address an issue further up the chain... Perhaps theres a delay in testing that could be worked on or just chasing up another team to get something done!

Another technique that works very well is that once a task is finished - before starting your next task help another member of the team to complete their task.

You'd be surprised at how much and quickly these simple techniques can aid collaboration within a team, encourage conversation and sharing of ideas and generally lead to better, higher quality deliverables!