The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
– Agile Principle #6
The sixth Agile Principle addresses communications management on an agile project team, stating what many successful project teams already understand: face-to-face communication is the most effective method for exchanging ideas. Maximizing in-person communication on your project will help you to:
Eliminate waste: You can eliminate waste on your project using many techniques but especially this one. When you go to the direct source of a question, information, requirement or follow-up item, you will be eliminating most of the time and effort that will be encountered using other forms of communication.
For example, suppose that you usually communicate by e-mail to Sharon. You take time to craft your message and send it. The message sits in Sharon’s inbox, and she eventually reads it. If Sharon has any questions, she writes another e-mail in response and sends it. That message sits in your inbox until you eventually read it, and so forth.
However, if you walk up to Sharon, you might have a 90-second conversation, get the information you need, and move on with your work. In a rapid iteration, you need the efficiency of face-to-face communication.
Enable non-verbal communication and osmotic communication: In-person conversations allow project team members to take advantage of non-verbal communication. Body language, voice inflection and eye contact offer more detailed communication than e-mail, instant messaging or phone calls ever can provide. The best way to enable face-to-face communication is through collocation, where each scrum team member works in the same room. Collocation enables osmotic communication, where people working in the same area hear conversations in the background, and can join in as necessary.
So now you may be asking the question: “This is all well and good, but at least one quarter of the project teams I work with cannot be collocated – they are in different cities, in different countries, and sometimes on different continents. What can we do then?” The answer is simply to use the tools that you have at your disposal to get as close to face-to-face communication as you possibly can. With the advent of the internet, web cams and online meeting tools, you can meet virtually on a regular basis and have results very close to what you would experience if you were in the same room. Even teams that have members in opposite time zones can record their portions of meetings and make them available to the rest of the team, or have proxies stand up for them during daily meetings. So even if you cannot literally practice face-to-face communication, you can come close enough to still have a very effective and successful agile project team.