Rangers “Lessons Learnt” Part 1 – Acknowledging the challenges and trying some antidotes


Revised 2011-02-23

We have just decided to change the session content, reducing the gazillion “bulleted slides”, as Bill Heys would call them, to three contextual slides, hoping for an interactive discussion thereafter. This means that we probably need to create some context definition for some of the MVPs who will be attending our session on Wednesday. Publishing it here is an additional transparency spice we are adding to the community message.

This post covers the WHICH are the challenges … future posts will cover the HOW are we trying to address the challenges and WHAT the impact and findings are in terms of our Rangers projects that are part of the dog fooding (Lab Management Guide, Build Customization Guide, Word4TFS, CodedUI Guide and TFS Iteration Automation).

So, who are the ALM Rangers?

The Rangers are co-funded and co-lead by services and the program group, responsible to accelerate the adoption of Visual Studio with out-of-band solutions for features gaps and value-add guidance for the ALM community. 

As shown on the left, we have product group, services, partners, user education and MVPs in the Rangers family, delivering out-of-band solutions and tools, or practical guidance that includes documentation, hands-on labs, videos, VHD images and many other value adds.

Assume that …

  • … we have an expert who has managed to balance the home/work worlds (if anyone has the recipe, please let me know)
  • … we have found more time in the day with the assumption that 1+1=10 as shown 🙂

Add technology experience, passion for technology and a lot of personal time to the mix, which gives you an ALM Ranger.

It is a subject matter expert who is driven by passion for the technology and together with the Rangers and MVP families delivers immense value back to the community.

The first challenge we experience as Rangers is the fact that we are distributed around the world as a Rangers community, as team members of specific projects and even as feature area members.

Looking at the Rangers Index, which currently includes only a few of the Rangers we realize that:

  1. We have to be cognisant that we are working with a variety of different cultures, making it important to realize that style of communication, style of authority and definition of politeness takes on a completely different meaning in different places of the world.
  2. Working conditions vary around the world. Technology, bandwidth and internet connectivity is not something that can be taken for granted.
  3. We have to schedule and manage meetings across different time zones … which for some means getting up at 2AM, which is not fun.

It often occurs that certain Rangers start the day at the crack of dawn and only get a chance to have breakfast and the obligatory shower in the late morning, early afternoon .. after juggling all the status meetings, stand-ups, design workshops and other collaboration around the world.

The second challenge is that due to the different types of Rangers, from different areas teams and communities, the various team members have different motivations and commitments. It is important that the Rangers process and recognition program embraces all motivation and commitment styles … not a trivial challenge.

The NDA is impacting our transparency vision and can also impact the motivation and commitment of Rangers, especially when they do not have access to all the moving bits and information.

While we are aiming for maximum transparency and access to everything by everyone, we have edge cases where we have not yet fulfilled our dreams.

The third and most difficult challenge is the fact that Rangers work is typically done in personal time and that there is regularly an unexpected crunch on bandwidth and therefore focus.

Unfortunately 1+1=2, not 10 … we are therefore still looking for the magic time machine 😐

Starting and stopping a project or feature area is a demoralising experience for the team and makes scrum burn down charts really interesting to look at.

Due to the voluntary nature of the Rangers program accountability varies greatly, with little to no options to enforce a delivery schedule. We are hoping to see this change where there is such accountability which rangers aspire to.

On the one side we have the three challenges and on the other side we have the two fundamental asks by our Rangers lead:

  • Razor sharp focus at all times
  • Quality, quality, quality … did we mention quality?

The ideas we have implemented in 2009, 2010 and 2011, which is subject of our observations, includes:

So, what works and what does not … and why? Come back for part two and beyond for an insight into our findings.

Hope the above clarifies a few things and sets the scene for the next few “lessons learnt” sessions which will be focusing on the analysis, observations, success stories and failures, of some of the ideas we adopted to address the challenges.

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