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I am working with larger and larger organizations adopting Agile. One discussion recently has kept me thinking about a challenge I hadn't been paying attention to heretofore. That is, how do we create approaches, working agreements, and technologies for knowledge flow across teams? I don't want to push "standards". I do want to make team-level knowledge move outside the team. I'm torn about whether to find a "push" approach (i.e. here is all the latest "stuff" we've seen) or a "pull" approach (i.e. if you are interested, we've collected a lot of information.) Ideas?

I had an idea spring to mind yesterday. Wouldn't it be great to have an internal StackExchange!? Thoughts for or against such an approach within an organization?

I'm still looking for something more specific. If we can't capture persistent knowledge a la StackExchange, what can we do? This can be larger than Agile. I just happen to be most curious about Agile knowledge flow given the sense of pulling emergent practices versus pushing prescriptions.

  • An internal SE would definitely help create communities and spread knowledge within the company - but the external SEs like this one are great for spreading it to those of us on the outside! – Lunivore May 27 '11 at 6:05
  • There are StackExchange open source clones that could be used to setup an internal Stack Exchange. See this meta question for more detail: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2267/stack-overflow-clones – jmort253 May 29 '11 at 19:46
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If we focus on whose responsibility it is to share knowledge/experience the answer is: everyone's.

Actually, no matter how big, or small, the company is -- you can't have just one role responsible for sharing their experience or facilitating such exchange among teams.

It's more about company culture: you either support open communication, transparency and information sharing or you prefer secrets, gossips and treating information as scarce resource. In the former case you don't need anyone being formally responsible for knowledge sharing; in the latter making anyone responsible for that won't work anyway.

So while it should be everyone's responsibility to ensure knowledge flow I'd point management, especially senior management, as a special group here as these are people who are most responsible for building company culture. If CEO and CSO treat every deal the company works on as a secret, why do they expect people down the ladder would behave differently with their knowledge, whatever it might be?

  • Unfortunately, I'm limited to +1. – Eric Willeke May 26 '11 at 10:16
  • Pawel, could you be more specific about emergent practices from Agile teams. How are these communicated and made persistently easy to access? – Jean Tabaka May 26 '11 at 15:11
  • I'm not sure we should address it to agile teams only. I believe good communication happens in organizations which support this kind of behaviors. The question about emergent communication-related practices is another one. I could point ad-hoc retros or swarming over problems as a couple of examples from the top of my head. – Pawel Brodzinski May 26 '11 at 18:49
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We run regular 'Brown Bag' sessions where the company provides lunch (usually Pizza, nom nom) and people from teams can come and present cool new stuff they are working on. Topics have included MVC, Facebook API, Deming's red bead experiment, dependency injection and so on, as well as more specific session on particular projects people are working on.

These help share new engineering practices and ideas across the teams and the free lunch usually guarantees a good attendance. It's a reasonable balance between push and pull - people aren't forced to attend but it provides a structured way for people to find out more about what their colleagues are working on.

We also run communities of practice amongst the different disciplines (Dev, QA, BA, ScrumMaster). These tend to be more focused on detail than the brown bags, e.g. informing devs of major changes that have been made to systems that everyone needs to be aware of. More info on Mike Cohn's blog on that http://blog.mountaingoatsoftware.com/cultivate-communities-of-practice.

Another point of knowledge transfer is 'Scrum of Scrums' which a member of each team attends once a week. The intent is to keep other teams appraised of who is working on what to avoid conflicts/dependencies. It's not as effective as it perhaps should be, something we need to look at.

An initiative we've started recently is a fortnightly award called 'Achievements in Agile' where teams can win a prize (usually a night out or toys like Nerf guns) for stuff like trying innovative process improvements. This is peer nominated which means teams need to actively promote what they are doing.

Teams also invite members of other teams to showcases etc.

Finally, we're a pretty social bunch so there is usually a decent amount of discussion in the pub about what is great (or not) about what we're working on at the moment!

  • I like this informal, sort of tribal approach. Awesome! Now how do I capture that for the person who hires in 6 months later to make the even higher value? And who is responsible for ensuring the brown bags occur? Thanks. – Jean Tabaka May 25 '11 at 19:10
  • Anyone can sign up to run a session on any topic they feel will be of interest. We have one person who kindly co-ordinates booking them in and ordering the pizza. We don't currently capture them in any organised way. We could ask the person running it to put some info on the wiki but since they're already sacrificing their personal time preparing and running the session, that might not go down too well! Videoing might be an option I guess... – Ben May 25 '11 at 23:30
  • Have added some more to my answer now I'm at home and have some more time to write! – Ben May 25 '11 at 23:38

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