Are you running Three Amigos conversations for each work item/user story your team does? If not, start now. Seriously.
Effective Three Amigos conversations cut confusion, reduce rework, and ensure the entire team clearly understands the why of what they’re building. Teams ensure acceptance criteria are clear, nail down test data, discuss data flows, and clear up a myriad of other potential roadblocks—before a single line of code is written.
Over the years I’ve come to the belief Three Amigos is the best thing you can do for improving your software delivery teams’ effectiveness. I used to think it was running good retrospectives; however, I’ve changed focus to Three Amigos.
Three Amigos is a small step you can adopt in your delivery process regardless of what methodology you use. It doesn’t matter if you’re using XP, Scrum, waterfall, or chaos. You don’t need some massive change proposal to your organization’s formally approved process—Three Amigos is nothing more than an effective conversation about each work item.
Here’s how you can start if you’re not familiar with them: For every work item—Every. Single. One.—have your developers, BAs, and testers gather together as the work item is pulled off for work.
Start with a small list of questions for the group to discuss. The questions vary for teams, but here’s a set of questions I’ve used for teams I’ve worked with.
- WHY are we building this? What is the business value this brings to our users?
- Are acceptance criteria clear enough?
- What risks are associated with this? (Regression, dependencies, etc.)
- Does this item impact existing tests and functionality?
- What test data is needed?
- What will be tested in unit, integration, and UI tests? (Who tests what.)
The point of the discussion is to clarify a number of things on each work item in order to avoid confusion, rework, and errors. Well-run Three Amigos generally take five to ten minutes, sometimes shorter. Initially they’ll be longer as your team learns how to work with them.
If there’s any confusion then you have an opportunity to clear it up before you do work. Bad acceptance criteria? Go talk to the product owner and change them. Unsure what test data you need? Take a sidebar and sit down for further discussion. Confusion over who’s testing what? Whiteboard out data flows, workflows, and architectural impacts so the devs and testers can iron out what’s going to be handled in unit, integration, functional, and exploratory testing.
You should have a Three Amigos on every work item, even if it’s just to agree no Three Amigos is needed for that particular work item. Sometimes different team members might have different views about a work item. If you don’t meet, you won’t know.
Again, rolling in to Three Amigos is the single most effective, low-friction thing you can do to improve your teams’ ability to deliver great software.
Need a starting point? Grab my template (Word 2013 document) and modify it to suit your needs!
Are you running Three Amigos? Do you use different discussion points? Let me know what works for you in the comments.