Wingmate – the concept

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My colleague Magnus was curious about the wingmate concept i have invented and is running for my teams so i wrote this post as a documentation for the concept. Wingmate is deeply inspired from the movie Topgun, where Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Kpt Kazanski (Val Kilmer) have a problem with collaboration, but at the end understand that they can be each others wingman. See clip here. Due to genus reasons i have changed it to wingmate instead. Here is my explanation of the concept for Magnus and others that find themselves stuck in Scrum or Kanban or in between.

I first used it 1990 when i was the coach for Tyresö P15 in ”ungdomsallsvenskan” (soccer top league in Sweden for youth). The wingback and the midfield winger on the right side was a ”twoship” (called rotepar in Swedish) operating autonomously together on the right side of the pitch regardless of the roles they had. Each twoship was supposed to take care of both defense and offense in their own way given the boundaries from our common tactic. Fifteen years later when i became agile coach in the software industry i applied it to my teams with success.

Wingmate is about to never work alone on a task. You always have someone from the team with you to support and/or challenge you. The outcome of this is

  1. Better quality by four eyes is better than two
  2. Spreading the knowledge to the team
  3. Faster delivery by peer pressure
  4. Backup if people become absent

In reality it means that you don’t start the work if the work item doesn’t have a wingmate. If you is about to start a work item you reach out to the team and say ”-Hey, this yyy thing i would like to do together with someone who xxx”. Here you can choose three things to exchange xxx with:

  1. Have done yyy before and can support me
  2. Is interested in learning more about yyy.
  3. Has been a part of the exploration phase of yyy and knows how this fits in the bigger perspective

When someone has volunteered you set up a startmeeting with him for maximum 30 minutes. The objective for this meeting is to schedule a end-meeting for the delivery and how to get there together. Input to this is your availability and the effort needed behind the work. A last polish on the acceptance criteria is also needed before you drag this work item to ”in progress” and the flow-clock is starting to ticking. As a wingmate you ask curious questions only just to keep the momentum. But of course also supports if the driver/assignee reaches out for support.

After or during the end meeting the wingmate checks the acceptance criterias and Definition Of Done and drags the ticket to ”Done”. Ideally you use this on feature level and then you can see this feature as a sprint.

Bob Marshall asked me how this concept apply to the more known practices Pairprogramming and Mobprogramming. I should say it is a complement to these practices. All three have the same outcomes but Wingmating is better for work of more time critical research based type like spikes, complex problem solving etc that requires deep work/focus. The other two is more for innovation and non time critical stuff. I believe in putting an expert together with a rookie in a ”wingmatebox” for two weeks will have better and faster outcome than a whole team swarming around it.

Still – this practice does not apply to rookies and introvert people with no sense of team spirit but for you others: Wingmate – try it, you’ll like it.