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I don’t remember who suggested I read it or how it ended up on my kindle, but somehow I stumbled into reading “Unblock! A guide to continuous agile” by Andy Singleton. I was initially skeptical, do we really need a new way to do agile?

I started reading, and pretty soon I was hooked! I described the book to someone recently as a must read for coaches and Scrum Masters (and teams) who don’t understand version control with agile. I found the chapters on different version control systems and branching approaches vs feature switches excellent. The pros and cons of each were well explained, and I think even someone who isn’t a developer would be able to understand the different options. I’ve personally known for a while that feature branches whilst very popular can become a headache, but I’ve been out of development too long to understand what’s taken it’s place. I am now convinced feature switches are the way to go, thanks to this book.

The book doesn’t stop there, it takes a pretty radical approach to distribution, one that is not usually embraced in the agile community. In fact it’s pro globally distributed teams because of the benefits you get being able to hire the best people for your team regardless of where they are located. I don’t have a lot of experience with distributed teams working well, but the techniques mentioned in this book sound like they could work really well. If you are doing distributed agile, check out the suggestions here.

One of my favourite ideas is to stop interviewing people. Rather give them a job to do for a few weeks, even if it’s only a few hours a week because they have another job. At the end of the few weeks, discuss the work they contributed. Look at their code, and how they worked with the team. Then either offer them a permanent job or don’t. The reality is that no matter how good your interviewing technique is, it’s still hit and miss. But most of the people I know (myself included) can spot a bad hire in the first 3 weeks of them starting.

I must admit to being one of those touchy feeling hugging agile coaches that Andy mentions in the book, but I am glad to be able to say that I see a place for a different style. Andy’s book explains an approach that is pragmatic, based on technical excellence, and massively scalable. I highly recommend taking a look at his ideas.

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