Osmotic communication

In an agile environment is very essential for the teams to be co-located for many reasons but remote teams in agile world are also accepted. Usually teams use various tools to reflect the daily work, keep everyone updated in a transparent environment and also generate statistics. Sometimes is really hard and bureaucratic to update many things on top of the daily work that a developer is delivering and tools remain just tools. In this case we identify the risk of focusing on the wrong things and highlighting the use of the tools more than the communication.

In an innovative environment you are encouraged to use the lowest technology as possible you can as this can lead to many face to face discussions and interactions between the members of the teams and between the teams themselves. But the point essentially is for the members of the team to know what is going on at any point of time and this is where we need to invest. Human minds are more efficient, productive and aligned when personal discussions are encouraged, reflecting the thoughts on just a piece of a paper.

It happened many times for guests to join the daily scrum meetings and complain somehow that they do not really understand what the team members shared within those 15 minutes. I say it is OK as long as the team understands what has been shared and the plan till the next daily scrum that is shared, is aligned and understood by them. As a guest, you really need to think why you were not in position to understand? Find the reason behind that gap not by requesting the team to be more specific but by taking an action yourself. An action that is so simple and is called interaction, communication.

How many of you that are developers, during your studies or even after, you had these brilliant ideas and gathered together in a room and start developing the one-million idea that you had. Think of it for a minute and try to compare it to an agile environment. All of you, sitting in one room (co-located) discussing and sharing things (transparent) and jump into a conversation that two of your friends had (osmotic).

Osmotic communication is a result of a co-located team in a not very quiet room. Usually developers tend to use headphones as they consider the discussions in the room a distraction and they cannot reach their "zone" of programming. This is usually happening when you work in an extremely quiet room, as in this situation, even the noise of a pen that dropped to the floor is considered a distraction. On the other hand, if the room is too loud then you will never be able to understand the discussions and neither you will be able to concentrate. Therefore, an ideal noise in the room would be the one that normal noise-level discussions are going on. This would also give you the opportunity to jump into the conversation and add your input if you feel you have to.

Part of the Scrum team are also the product Owners. Therefore, if the Product Owners keep their kanban board in the team room and conduct any alignment short meetings either with stakeholders or with other Product Owners, will give the opportunity to the dev team to get the info in advance just by having the discussion in the background. This is the osmotic communication that you establish in a team just by creating the right environment.

Konstantinos Kareklas - Agile Coach