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A few years ago my office was situated next to the door to the stairs, and anyone going to lunch used them. At that time, we had a couple of particularly large accounts, and both account teams were working on the same floor as I.

Back in 2002-2003 my office was next to the door to the stairs, and anyone going to lunch used them. At that time, we had a couple of particularly large accounts, and both account teams were working on the same floor as I. At some point I realized that I could perform a sort of a magic trick, and I did so many times to surprise and entertain employees and customers alike. 

The trick was that I could tell which of these two accounts a group of engineers – sight unseen – walking past my door on their way to lunch belonged to.

How did I do that?

(No, I don’t have X-ray vision.)

Very simple. As they walked down the hallway, one group (let’s call them Account A) typically sounded like this:

Tap.
Tap.
Tap.
Tap.

Or even like this:

Shuffle.
Shuffle.
Shuffle.

The other group (Account B) sounded like this:

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

Account A guys sounded like they were in no hurry. Which was true – they typically weren’t. Account B guys, on the other hand, sounded like they always had somewhere to be, right now. Focused. On a mission.

Why such a drastic difference?

Account A was a very large, multi-year project we were doing for a large global system integrator, completely waterfall to the core. With the other customer, Account B, we were actually practicing distributed XP – up to 10 offshore teams at a time working on as many projects in parallel, all using Extreme Programming, most running on 1-week iterations.

You can probably guess which of the two accounts had more delays, scheduling, budgeting and scope related issues, and which had more excited, happy, motivated teams. Not only did the Agility of the XP guys keep them happier, more focused, motivated and productive, it even translated into how they moved about the office.

At a certain point, when faced with a serious challenge on the Account A’s project, we actually brought in some of the more experienced XP guys from Account B to replicate some of the Agile best practices, and that produced the most memorable project turnaround that I can remember.

But that’s a story for another day.

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