Speed Dating (as development team collaboration)

Our team’s topic was „culture and mindset“. We were looking for ways to foster a mindset of selforganisation and „leadership by everyone“, for means to create and inspire a culture of agile values.

We decided to create a toolbox over the weekend containing practical ready-to-use things to try in our teams/companies. We came up with a small matrix of what could work as approach: Games, powerful questions, safe-to-fail experiments. There’s plenty more you could think of, but we left it at that to get going.

In our second sprint we tackled the task of creating a safe-to-fail experiment for a collaboration format inspiring self organisation and alignment in a team. The result is: Speed dating!

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Speed dating for development team pairs

The idea is simple. The team works in pairs for a given timebox, then partners are rotated to form new pairs. After all possible combinations have paired you are done. In our view that fosters

  • self organisation
    • because the team has to find a working scheme for pairing permutation
    • because the team/pairs have to figure out a way of quick onboarding for the person new on the pair/task
  • alignment
    • because everyone has to become aware of all tasks in progress and their purpose respectively, you cannot concentrate on only a part of the sprint’s scope
  • responsibility
    • as you actively and productively get in touch with all tasks and all teammembers you might feel a greater responsibility for the sprint result in general

Once we had briefly brainstormed the idea we actually tried speed dating as a format to further discuss the idea and get a feeling how speed dating might work (actually that was a lot of fun).

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Chose your speed dating scenario

We visualized the different alternatives we thought of for possible speed dating scenarios in a decision tree. The most important decision to make is probably: Do you want to try out speed dating for one day oder two, or do you want to do it for a full sprint. The latter might not be safe-to-fail depending on your situation  whereas one day (sufficient for teams up to 6 people) or two days (sufficient for teams up to 8 people) might be considered safe-to-fail.

The second decision to make is: Do you want to have 1 task per person (people take the task with them to the next pair) or per computer (the tasks stays at the computer workplace so that after 2 rounds a totally new pair is working on the task).

The latter has the advantage that everybody gets in touch with all tasks. The „disadvantage“ is that every pair must be able to at least basically work on every task. That is a general goal in agile teams but might pose a problem in real life. We felt that the time box per pair should probably be 30 minutes plus. But to figure out what works might be part of the experiment as well.

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We will try it out and post our experiences and learnings, we would be happy if you would let us know in case you give it a try. (We thought of speed dating as an interesting format for retrospectives too, but that’s a different story. Also we were told later that’s an approach already listet in the retromat.)

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