Fake it till you make it is a known pattern in Test Driven Development implementation, which means one writes code that acts like it knows what it’s doing in order to know what it’s doing. This is a powerful technique and I’ve already written how using the same trick on the individual scale can help you make your team better.
I just recently realized that I had already seen this principle applied to a whole team which then caused a whole department to follow suit.
Back in 2005, I had the luck to join a particularly interesting team. Hanging around the section the team was part of clearly showed that all other teams regard that specific team (let’s call it A Team) as a highly skilled team. People said they were the XP (Extreme Programming) team, and were generally looked at as an example of how a good team should work.
After joining the team I got a look from the inside of what was really going on. All the developers were highly talented, but being “The XP Team”? Hah! 2 guys have read Kent Beck’s (amazingly awesome) Extreme Programming Explained and simply started pairing and writing automated unit tests before the code.
Simply starting with those 2 small parts of the XP way of doing things got them improved results which then got the rest of the section interested. By simply saying they were going to try that XP thing and saying it made their lives better, the A Team got the ball rolling for the whole section without never even trying to start an Agile Transition.
And this wasn’t a one trick poney! About 2 years later, the same thing happened with Scrum. One teammate read a good intro to it (back when it was still a free PDF), told the rest of the team which then decided to give a try. After a few sprints of seeing how organized standup meetings and the like actually helped our process we decided to keep it.
We didn’t try to “get everyone to realize this is the best way”. Some people happened to come inside our room during standups, or see the scrum board. Those alone got people interested and from then on again, A Team got the section to advance nicely.
This is a marvelous story that I only now realize how rare it is. Simply because the team looked to the rest of the section like they knew what they were doing it got all of them to try agile without having to break down walls or bust open doors. Sometimes just doing what feels right is enough.
Fake it till you make it is just another way of saying “If you build it they will come”!