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All types of teams, including Agile software developers, rely heavily on collaboration and teamwork. Jean Tabaka presents Collaboration Explained, which explains practical ways to foster a collaborative culture in development teams.
Section 1 of this book explains what Tabaka means when she refers to collaboration. It also outlines the benefits of a collaborative culture, using the Agile Manifesto for its foundation.
Tabaka uses anecdotes and examples to illustrate key points. She also uses examples of collaboration to highlight good work practices. She also draws inspiration from examples of collaborative leadership styles such as those used by the NBA and the US Navy. This section also provides an overview of DISC and other team role models, as well as a discussion on how teams function.
Section 2 discusses how collaboration can be used in practice. The author discusses how teams work together, including the types of meetings, the skills needed to manage the agenda, the best tools to use during meetings to improve collaboration and give the team a sense of ownership.
Many of the facilitation techniques described here will be familiar to any experienced facilitator. Tabaka suggests that facilitators should use these techniques every day, not just for one-off brainstorming sessions.
Some of her suggestions may not work for multi-cultural teams. The reader will need to make a judgment on what will work best for them. It may not be a good idea to give your team members nicknames from Finding Nemo.
Section 3 is called “Extending Collaboration” and examines how the principles discussed earlier can be extended. Tabaka explains how collaboration can be applied to distributed teams as well as across entire organizations.
The last section contains step-by-step agendas as well as facilitation guides for standard meetings using three different software development methodologies, Crystal Clear, Scrum, and XP/Industrial XP. Tabaka also contains general templates for project management meetings that could be modified to suit other methodologies.
The book contains information that can be used to improve small meetings and techniques to facilitate large groups. Some information is very basic, such as how to determine who should attend.
The author also provides detailed information on how to get teams to estimate. He presents various models, including the Wideband Delphi approach and velocity-based estimation.
This book is a good guide for software project managers if you can overlook the most basic information that is necessary for completeness and to place the more complicated techniques in context.
Although it will help readers to run more efficient meetings than if they were not already familiar with this approach, all the techniques could seem too heavy-handed in an environment that isn’t used to it. Many of the techniques in the text could be used by project managers who work outside the Agile framework and on non-software projects.
This review has been accepted by The Computer Journal for publication
You can read the published version online or download a.pdf copy.
JEAN TABAKA, Collaboration Explained – Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders Addison Wesley 2006. ISBN-13 978-0321268778. PS31.99. 412 pp. Softbound SPOTOThe Computer Journal 2007; doi: 10.1093/comjnl/bxm072

By Delilah