On Monday, February 18, Asynchrony held our company meeting. As well as being our first company meeting in the new office, we were able for the first time to bring in guest speakers. We chose two great voices in the Agile world, James Shore and Arlo Belshee, to help remind us of Agile values and to inspire us to keep striving for technical excellence.
James and Arlo started off the day with “Bloody Stupid Johnson Teaches Agile,” a farcical send-up on how Agile is tried and fails when the commitment isn’t there to really change the culture. We were reminded about all of the roles that can pop up as an organization tries to be Agile, from the consultant who promises the world, the Agile religious zealot who only knows how to tell people when they aren’t Agile, and the “certification trainer” who offers something really enticing and easy, but without much real benefit.
After Bob Elfanbaum and the sales team openly presented our financials and sales pipeline to all employees (as has been our custom since starting the company), Arlo and James spoke on “Virtuoso Technique,” the value of reaching a level of skill in your craft that lets you do the right things without even thinking about it, so you can concentrate on the problem at hand. Quality is a constant conversation at Asynchrony, and an area we never feel we have totally mastered, so it was a good reminder on how practice is required to really make these skills second nature.
At this point, the group split into two, as James and Arlo had a session to dig deeper into the Virtuoso Technique concepts by guiding developers through refactoring in their own project code bases. Our own Stephanie Greytak and Jason Tice led another group in a presentation called “Everyday Agile Values,” where values inherent in Agile ideals were illustrated through exercises and games.
After lunch, Asynchrony had a time of employee recognition, where those who were new to the company were asked to stand one at a time (35 since last October, so this took a while!) so that other Asynchronites could put names with faces. We also renewed our tradition of giving out company-logoed jackets to those who had been with the company for five years (temporarily on hiatus as we got jackets with our new logo), and bobble heads for those who have been around for ten, a duplicate of which will be displayed in the case in our lobby.
This was also the time that Bob Elfanbaum, our general manager, introduced the Asynchrony Culture Committee concept. As our company grows and the management team gets more and more occupied with everyday operations, it’s important to us to hold on to the culture that makes people want to work at our company and that allows us to do amazing things for our customers. This grass roots team will help keep us on track by advising changes and roles in the company to help us continue to promote an open, accepting environment of empowerment, creativity, achievement, and learning.
Arlo also gave a short but inspirational talk on how brain chemistry affects the learning process. It was useful for even our most experienced developers to understand the chemical reactions that allow us to learn, and how we need practice to retain what we learn.
After a lively “Agile Caucus,” where James and Arlo represented the various goals we fight for on our software projects, we broke into teams and played an Agile project simulation that helped emphasize how the engineering and planning disciplines of Agile can help make teams successful in their development goals.
We concluded with an Open Spaces discussion where employees were encouraged to propose topics that they were passionate about discussing concerning Agile and life in Asynchrony. I saw talks on developing leadership, various development practices, and how culture should really be retained to be successful (should it be leadership doing it, or the employees?).
Asynchrony for so many years has worked not because of what management does but what our employees do to make us great. This company meeting was an effort to show support for our employees and inspire them to continue to emphasize discipline and quality, and to come up with the new ideas that will keep us successful. We hope hearing Arlo and James helped to solidify the reasons we do what we do the way we do it, and that many of our employees had the chance to talk to them and each other to take a little something away they can use in the future. We sent out a survey about the meeting and will be reviewing the feedback to see how we can do something even better next time.
Thanks to Matt Sebek for the great photos!