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Make Everything Visible

I once started following Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. I didn't really think about the decision for long. It was just that Ashton was the first person in the world to have 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. So, except for the looks, there had to be something interesting about this guy, right?

Ashton Kutcher was visible. Stories about his race with CNN to be the first with a million followers could be found all over the Internet. For someone like me, reading many social networking blogs, it was very hard not to see this. That's why I followed Ashton Kutcher.

So, how do you make people follow practices? Easy. Make them visible!

Last year, some managers and I introduced "big visible charts" in the form of task boards for every development team. Anybody walking around the office could easily see them. So, when other (nonsoftware development) teams noticed these task boards, they wanted them as well! They saw and they followed. And this principle doesn't just work for task boards. Any visible process is an information radiator.

My last team did its stand-up meetings in our open office space as well. We first considered doing stand-ups in a more secluded area so as not to disturb our colleagues while discussing our project for 15 minutes. But we decided against that. Then it soon turned out that, again, other teams (including nonsoftware development teams) started following the same practice. They saw our teams doing stand-ups every morning, and they decided to try this interesting practice, too.

To see is to follow....

People copy each other's behaviors, sometimes for no other reason than just seeing them. It's a human thing. It's why I started following Ashton Kutcher. And it's why teenagers start smoking. Scientists say humans often mimic each other unintentionally. But this fact can be used intentionally, too. Mimicry has a great potential to be used for influencing interpersonal persuasion and communication. You can use mimicry to your advantage by making sure that good behavior is visible. If you want people to write better code, plaster the best code you have all over your coffee machine. If you want other people to follow Scrum practices, post times and locations for sprint planning and review meetings on your company's public calendars. If you want people to use proper source control and branching techniques, draw the source control tree and its branches on your office walls.

People follow what they see, and you must show that which is good.

And perhaps you should refrain from showing examples of bad behavior in your office. People might (unintentionally) follow them.

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