One of the things that most intrigued me about Easy Agile when I was looking to apply was the opportunity to take part in regular Inception Weeks.
For those of you not familiar with the concept, it is, at least as defined by Easy Agile, one week in every five where employees across the company can work on a project of their own design. The only guardrail being that the Inception Week project will leave us thinking “how did we ever live without this?!”
"Deliver value, let it be messy, give us the opportunity to get feedback"
Dave Elkan, Easy Agile co-CEO
The aim of Inception Weeks is always to ship real value at the end of the period with a favourite quote of mine from our co-CEO Dave “Deliver value, let it be messy, give us the opportunity to get feedback”. Despite this Easy Agile also prescribes to the mantra of learning by failing, giving room for employees to be experimental and stretch themselves in their projects.
It sounded too good to be true, like some Silicon Valley fantasy world that would only ever be found on TV. Surely no company would actually let me work on whatever I wanted for such a large chunk of my working time? What would the benefit be to them?
My first Inception Week felt like it came around fast when I first started at Easy Agile. Despite this I was ready. Although I was new to the company I was not new to their applications, having used Easy Agile TeamRhythm (formerly User Story Maps) daily in my previous role. I knew exactly what I wanted to work on, a way to help teams to estimate their capacity from their previous velocity when in team planning. I searched the Inception Week backlog (where these ideas are captured) thinking that surely I had stumbled onto something new but, alas, there are no original ideas. Turns out our co-CEO Nick had already come up with the idea at least two years before I started.
Never mind that though, I dived into the project with vigour, coming out of my first Inception Week with a working prototype I was able to demonstrate to the team. More than that, I quickly ramped up my knowledge about the codebase since I was working on my own idea with the permission to be messy and fail. I can’t imagine another approach that would have got me up to speed so quickly as a productive and useful member of the team. While the work I did has not (yet) made it to production, it has informed similar functionality in other Easy Agile applications, improved our combined knowledge of the area and will be useful as a prototype we can demo to customers when building such a feature becomes a business priority.
The next of my Inception Week projects, Easy Agile Jira Hero, was arguably an even greater success for myself and Easy Agile as it has just won third place in Atlassian’s Codegeist hackathon’s IT Category using a cutting edge development platform called Forge. I am hopeful that this outcome will help extend Easy Agile’s reputation as a company that is not afraid of trying new things while being one of the premier providers of software in the Atlassian ecosystem. On top of that, as a company and individuals, we gained invaluable knowledge around Forge applications we can use to better service our customers in the future.
Although the initial idea was barebones, it was elevated through the work of my amazing teammates. We had a blast making it too, building our cohesiveness as a team and having fun indulging our inner nerds with a vintage 8 bit design concept complete with parallax’s and funky animations.
My most recent Inception Week has helped me grow significantly as a developer as I worked on an application outside of the browser for the first time in my career. Building on the work of the awesome folks who built intermock, I adapted their tool to be used within the VSCode IDE with the extension Emulative (coming soon to a marketplace near you!). In doing so, I am hoping to do my (very) small part to improve the lives of my fellow developers by building upon the tool chain that so many others have built in order to make the work we do easier and more rewarding.
Looking back on my Inception Weeks with Easy Agile I can now easily see their benefit to both the employees and the business.
As employees, Inception Weeks empowered us to think creatively, learn and grow. They also contribute to a wonderful cadence of work. They allow us to take the foot off the pedal of the usual feature development cycle, complete with cutting out all meetings, leading to improved mental health and motivation.
The business benefits too, in varied ways, big and small which are both expected and unexpected.
Inception Weeks contribute enormously to developing a positive and inclusive team culture by breaking down the walls between teams as we form new teams for a week around things we are passionate about.
Inception Weeks no doubt leads to a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. They also contribute enormously to developing a positive and inclusive team culture by breaking down the walls between teams as we form new teams for a week around things we are passionate about.
Another way Easy Agile benefits as a business relates to the quote attributed to Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Easy Agile is good at building awesome stuff that their customers want. But in an environment as competitive as software in general, and the Atlassian ecosystem in particular, innovation is particularly important. Inception Weeks empower the team to identify their own problems and come up with creative solutions leading to new tools, features and even products for the business.
If you are a business involved in the software space, or any space really, I recommend you take a serious look into how Inception Weeks could become part of your business. Your future self and your employees will thank you for it.
If you want to ask me more about Inception Weeks or chat about anything else agile, software development (or surfing!) reach out on Twitter.
Also, if Easy Agile’s Inception Weeks sound as awesome to you as they did to me take a look at our open positions, we are hiring!