As codecentric consultants, we see a lot of companies from the inside. Some need our expertise on development, others for help with testing and again others request to be coached for running Agile / Scrum projects. Since a couple of months I have the privilege to work at Port of Rotterdam in The Netherlands, on a project called HaMIS. It is refreshing to see how this project treats their developers. Of course there is always room for improvement, but they know this and are actively seeking to get better.
One nice example of how the HaMIS project at Port of Rotterdam tries to improve and at the same time empowers their people is the so called “ShipIt day”. Similar events are held at other companies such as Atlassian or Six Feet Up. It’s an event held every quarter where in one day (or actually 24 hours) the teams are free to build something they like. See it as an investment in your employees.
However, don’t overlook the opportunity for the company itself. The ShipIt day can bring some great innovations to the project. Things that otherwise would be too costly to investigate or too high risk. Or simply features that the developer thinks can be improved. And in some way I think it mitigates the urge for developers to use new technology during the project. Choices that could turn out to be wrong and, at best, cost more time but at worst need to be rolled back. These technologies could have been investigated during a ShipIt day, to mitigate the risks and make better decisions.
To organise your own “ShipIt day”, here’s a short description of the organization and rules.
The rules are simple, there’s only three of them:
- The ideas or subjects to work on need to be (somewhat) related to the ongoing project.
- Employees need to pitch their ideas and every idea needs at least two persons behind it before work can start
- At the end of the ShipIt day, whether they managed to succeed or not, all teams present their results.
Organisation as done at Port of Rotterdam;
- Two weeks prior to ShipIt Day – Pitch your idea and win the soul of your fellow developers to work on your idea.
- Some time prior to ShipIt Day – Participants are expected to write up their “shipment orders” – a short document describing their project, the reason they’re doing it, and how much they expect to achieve in a day. Also teams are being formed.
- 2 pm ShipIt Day – ShipIt Day kicks off. Everyone get together for a quick kick-off announcement.
- 6-7 pm ShipIt Day – Dinner is provided by the company for those who are working late.
- Overnight – A few dedicated participants sometimes keep working on their projects overnight. The majority, more sensible people, go home to get some rest.
- 10 am – Organiser reminds everyone to take screenshots or videos of their work in progress, in case it breaks at the last minute.
- 3 pm – Work stops and presentations start. Everyone gets three minutes to present their project.
- 3.30 pm – Everyone votes to select the ShipIt champion.
- 4 pm – 5 pm – ShipIt Day is finished and everyone who took part hangs around the office for a while to have some drinks and a chat.