Our First FedEx Day: Results!

March 26, 2011

We had quite a first day… and a long one at that!

We began and ended on time, starting at 3:00 PM on Thursday and going until 3:00 PM on Friday. During the week, everyone began to get clearer about what they really wanted to work on, and the initial potential shipping orders were updated to be actual shipping orders and moved into the shipping orders folder on our SharePoint server.

We had dinner brought in on Thursday night, and you could feel the level of excitement and fun in the air as people grouped together in different locations and talked. People were definitely passionate about what they were working on, and everyone was clearly motivated to pitch in and help their team. We even had a few one-person projects under way.

I had one other developer working with me – Ed Seckler – and we both felt confident that we could deliver. We even discussed some ideas about what we could add on as “extras” once we accomplished our initial objective. (We were working on a mobile app retrieving content from a legacy back-end system using our middleware product; we needed to build the mobile app from scratch and modify our middleware product.)

For most of us, it was a long night. Work demands delayed my own start time, but I felt confident that I could compensate by working just a little bit later… And what happened to me and Ed happened to just about everyone else. Twenty-four hours is a short time frame, and even if something looks easy at the outset, those unknowns kill you!

People worked very late into the evening; I personally managed about four hours of sleep and I know that others were in the same boat. But no one was complaining! The camaraderie and commitment still made it all fun. And the generous supply of donuts and coffee the next morning certainly made things easier.

Challenges presented themselves for virtually everyone involved. I ran my last build at 2:59:59 pm (by my watch) and joined everyone else waiting to begin the demonstrations and voting, praying that my last fix would get me around an application error that was showing up on the mobile app so that our demo wouldn’t explode. (It worked!)

And the demonstrations were impressive! The number of ideas actually worked on and the amount of work accomplished in twenty-four hours was remarkable. We had a few projects where people had clearly attempted too much and could not demonstrate working software, but they were able to speak about what they did and what they learned, which provided insight and value that we can use going forward.

All said and done, no one felt that our FedEx day was a waste of time. In fact, we need to figure out what ideas we want to keep moving and how to weave continued pursuit of them into our existing work. There are too many good ideas and great progress to ignore. And the winning idea has excellent revenue potential.

And yes, there was a competitive atmosphere with some good-natured trash-talking here and there. Here’s one example: Doug Tedder – who was working on an automation test tool with James Donaghue – loudly pronounced (so that we could all hear) that they, “Had even solved world hunger” as they completed their final tests. I might have thrown around a comment or two, but I don’t recall…

What would we change? We ran a quick retrospective after the voting and the awarding of the trophy was made, and preparation time was an issue. One observation is that some people spent a lot of time getting prepared so that they could begin their work, costing hours of time and risking or hampering delivery in twenty-four hours. I’m too tired to remember what else we wrote down, but there were some good thoughts on how to improve.

And yes, we will have another FedEx day later in the year! The results are too good to ignore.

Updated with Photos:

The trophy The teams hard at it!
Talking strategy over dinner...
The winners! The tired but happy participants...