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Ascend's Day of Autonomy #1

January 4, 2012 General Mark

Last April Steve Novoselac, our Development Team Manager, introduced us to the “Day of Autonomy”. It was a takeaway from an RSA Animate short he watched entitled “Drive:  The surprising truth about what motivates us”. Click here to read his blog post and watch the video. The idea is simple:  Give our development team one day to program anything they want. The only requirement is that at the end of the day it is workable and can be demonstrated. 

As the Ascend Product Owner I was open to the idea but reluctant to do it. In our Agile environment we have a fixed number of points that we can program in any two-week sprint. We also have a large number of points in our backlog to program new features for you. So points are precious. This last sprint we found the ideal time to try it out. On the afternoon of December 21st we kicked off our first Day of Autonomy with a deadline of 2pm the following day. We met at 2pm on the 22nd to view the results. They were, in short, awesome.

Chad, Damon, Jason and focussed on improvements to Ascend. Chad created an Android prototype of AscendScan (in 1 day!?). It gave us a glimpse of what we will be able to do for mobile apps in the not too distant future. Earlier in December, Damon helped me fill in for our cashiers in the Trek cafe where they use Ascend. He noted several inefficiencies and devoted his Day of Autonomy time to them. He created a “cashier mode” in the Sales screen. When you enable it, Ascend will return to the Sales screen immediately after you complete a sale and will continue to do so until you turn it off. He also created a hot key for the Gift Card payment type (Ctrl+G) and set the credit card number field to blank out after an invalid card swipe. Jason noticed that the links to our on-line help were lacking. He created a button on each screen to link to our on-line help website. When you click the button you can choose to go to our table of contents or to specific topics that pertain to the screen you’re in.

Adam, Gregg, Jamie and Jeff focussed on improvements to streamline our daily work. Adam created an automated workflow to streamline our release process at the end of every two-week sprint. Gregg created a utility to easily and quickly switch between our 3 different country environments (Germany, North America and U.K). Jamie created a utility to detect any problems with connections in their test environments with the ability to click and correct any problem connections. Jeff created a web utility to help us more easily post software updates to our different dealer groups. 

It was clear to me that the Day of Autonomy was worth doing.  It was worth the time we gave up working on other items.  The work done will provide immediate and long-term benefits to all of us.  The developers had a great time doing it. The entire team had fun seeing their results and applauding their efforts.  Moving forward, we will plan to have a Day of Autonomy once a quarter.

My advice to any business manager is to try this.   We all have more to do than we can possibly get done in the time we have to do it.  But, from my experience, this is a win/win proposition.  You will get valuable improvements for your business.  Your employees will appreciate the chance to do it and to show you what they’re capable of doing.

Let me know how the Day of Autonomy works for you.  Have fun!


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3 responses to “Ascend's Day of Autonomy #1”

  1. […] new feature came out of our first Day of Autonomy exercise. It was inspired by Trek’s cafeteria where Ascend is used and many employees use gift cards […]

  2. Chris Bishop says:

    Love the RSA videos, been watching a lot of them lately. Any best practices for applying a “day” to the bicycle retail business?

    • mhoggatt says:

      Chris, I myself haven’t talked to anyone in the bicycle retail business that has tried it. I’d suggest asking your management team “what would you do?” and I’m guessing you’ll get some creative ideas. I’d also suggest here that any dealers have tried this to chime in and comment on their experiences.

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