Sunday, April 29, 2012

Observations from a 2 day Hack-a-thon

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a two day "hack-a-thon". This is an event where engineers get to work on any interesting project and present their results to a panel of judges. The judges determine which projects are the most innovative and are awarded and promoted across the organization.

In the past I've been skeptical of these types of events. Most of the proposed project are engineering improvements that should be worked on as part of their project deliverables and the majority of the projects for this event would fall into that category. However, I think the event gave the teams authority and permission to work on these projects and was impressed by the results the teams produced in two (more like 1.5 days to allow for demos).

This lead me to ask a couple questions. One to the teams and one to the leaders/managers. To the team, I asked: How were the teams able to deliver such impressive results in 2 days? Some of the team's reasons included:

  • Improved collaboration
  • Uninterrupted/focused work
  • Interesting projects
  • Competition with other teams
  • Scoping the work to two days
  • Food and snacks
The reason that I think contributed the most to the success of the projects is scoping the work to the time available. Most teams had two to three options for what they envisioned for their demo. They delivered the simplest demo first then worked on the next small improvement. Most demos were ready during the first day.

I saw another impressive behavior...The teams followed up on impediments instantly and would not take "no" or "tomorrow" as an answer. I don't know if I would call it Drive, Responsibility or Ownership, but was very happy to see it.

On Monday, I'll follow up with manager and leaders on how to replicate these outcomes on our real projects.