The Agile Practitioner Mesh is a lightweight interaction framework to share knowledge and experiences. It can exist separately next to a Community of Practice or Working Out Loud structures – or be available on its own. Its idea is to foster communication and exchange in a more peer-based way.
We at inovex have learned that because of the way we work – in customer projects – it can be really hard to get all people who are interested in Agile together on a regular basis. Sure, from time to time we go to workshops and work a great deal on current and new interesting topics but it can be tough to do this when being involved in projects. This might just be because it is difficult to find a common time in so many calendars. We liked the idea of being in contact, though. With the mesh, community building can be supported in a self-organized way.
The setup of the Agile Practitioner Mesh
At one of the company’s events last year a couple of people from our Agile team came together and spoke about this. We spoke about our challenges and what we could do.
And thus the Agile Practitioner Mesh was born! It depends on a few simple rules:
- We would create an initial “node” with three people in it
- We would meet at specific intervals, between 2 to 4 weeks seemed helpful
- When we get together, there is a brief introduction, then every person shares something of interest, a short discussion might come up and then the appointment would already be over
- Good time frames seem to be around 1 to 1,5 hours
And now the kicker:
- Each person from this initial “node” would now approach at least one other person in this mesh – which makes it a lot easier to find an appointment
- The person from the first node and a new colleague would form the next “node”
- The setup of the appointment follows the same simple rules as in the paragraph above this picture
- The interaction in those nodes is usually a lot stronger than in bigger meetings and proper discussion is possible
- Because of the smaller number of participants people also feel more inclined to make the appointment happen, which in turn also helps to build stronger relationships
- And when they part at the end of their appointment, the simple concept of the Agile Practitioner Mesh has hopefully been shared and the new colleague would as well seek out someone to just share knowledge and experience
There is a simple thing we agreed upon within those sessions:
- When something is shared in those “node” sessions, everyone can simply request to not share a specific story or a discussion outside of the current mesh node – so to speak have a private conversation
- Apart from this, every person is invited to bring knowledge, info, or other input from one “node” to another “node”
- Or just join the own “node” session and have a chat or discuss an open question
How to grow the network?
This is completely open to everyone involved. Either someone already has a good idea about another person who would fit in. Or an internal communications tool can be used to show who is already involved in the topic and to whom to talk next so that other colleagues get to know and join the system.
This system is solely used to foster more exchange on an informal level with issues that are not time critical. Sometimes it turns out to be a collegial debate, sometimes it is about a new framework, and sometimes something different altogether. If new information needs to be delivered or people need to be informed about specific new company information, known, reliable ways like mail or chat tools have to be used. Also, it might be hard to really know at a specific point in time how many people are involved in the Agile Practitioner Mesh because there would be a need to go through all “nodes”. It might be helpful to have a small overview in a wiki or another place.
The Agile Practitioner Mesh can be a helpful alternative or addon to already existing exchange formats for agilists – or in fact any community in a company or other organization. The freedom of the setup and the lightweight “node” communication make it easy to set up and try out. This format can slowly grow over time. An idea is that people who were formerly far away from the first node would make contact again with “Node 1” and the mesh would become real “meshy”. In the end, this is what Agile is about, experimentation, right?