It’s my great pleasure to announce Arthur Richards as Team Practices
Manager for WMF. Arthur will lead a group of ScrumMasters and coaches
to scale up our ability to support teams in developing robust
processes for software delivery. In this new role, Arthur will report
to the VP of Engineering (currently, me).
Arthur’s first engagement in this role will be with the MediaWiki core
team in October. He’s also still transitioning responsibilities for
the mobile web team to Kristen Lans, who just joined WMF as
ScrumMaster. I am very excited about the work ahead. Please join me in
congratulating Arthur and wishing him success in this new role. :-)
What follows is some more background about this new group and about
Arthur’s leadership in case you’re interested (long):
Arthur joined WMF in June 2010  to support fundraising tech. In the
context of team process pains, this team was the first one to adopt an
agile development process (specifically, Scrum), and Arthur was in the
middle of it all. He took this experience with him when he joined the
mobile development team under Tomasz Finc in 2012. The mobile team,
too, would soon adopt Scrum, and Arthur took on the role of
ScrumMaster later that year to be the "process owner" for the team.
What does that actually mean? It means facilitating the "rituals" that
are part of an agile team’s work (e.g. the daily stand-ups, the sprint
planning meetings, retrospectives, etc.) and continually facilitating
the team’s discovery of improving the way they work. Say it turns out
week after week that the team is introducing preventable regressions
-- in a situation like this, the ScrumMaster will work with the team
to better understand what’s going on and work towards a solution
(e.g. collaboration with QA, improved test coverage, etc.).
In my experience, every team benefits from process improvement, and
the highest performing ones view this as a continuous part of the
team’s work. Arthur embodies this and I've long viewed the mobile web
team as the canonical example in our org that illustrates the benefits
of agile development done right.
Throughout his experience as ScrumMaster, Arthur has always made a
point of emphasizing the spirit of agile (continued iteration and
improvement, problem solving from the bottom up) rather than sticking
dogmatically to a specific methodology. He’s also led the development
of new processes in the organization that reduce siloed development
and improve coordination, e.g. the Scrum of Scrums.
Through most of this time we relied on external consultants to get
other teams up to speed on agile development practices. While this has
worked reasonably well, the ever-changing personal relationships (a
new consultant for every project) and the lack of institutional memory
has meant that it was hard to customize and scale the process to our
When we spun up the Flow team last year, we had to make a decision:
Will we continue to rely on external consultants, or will we start
building internal capacity for this? We decided to experiment with the
latter, and Arthur Richards and Tomasz Finc led a one-time agile
workshop with the team which was universally well-received and didn't
suffer from some of the false starts of consultant engagements.
So, in the budget planning cycle this year Tomasz and Arthur made a
pitch to formalize this function in the organization: the Team
Practices Group . Given his experience, Arthur is perfectly
positioned to lead this group. He’s demonstrated level-headedness,
patience, and openness that you want from a coach, guiding teams
gently and always focusing on improvements that will be carried
forward by the team as a whole.
After consulting with multiple teams who were hungry for more support
(e.g. a full-time ScrumMaster, or just agile process support), we
decided that Arthur would initially bring on two full-time staffers.
It’s already become clear that this won’t be sufficient. For example,
Analytics is expressing a strong need for a full-time ScrumMaster to
support the growing team so that developers can focus on development.
Whether this is always the right answer remains to be seen. Arthur
will work with teams to find a good balance between custom tailored
solutions and process consistency for the org.
Ultimately, this new group’s function will be similar to what in
traditional organizational models would be a "Project Management
Office" - except that, instead of having a group of Project Managers
assign work, we want to facilitate self-organizing and increasingly
fluid teams coming up with a process that works for them.
We draw lots of inspiration from other orgs (e.g. Spotify’s seminal
Scaling Agile paper ) but also need to account for the unique
requirements of our org (transparency, commitment to open source,
Working with Arthur is a privilege and a pleasure, and I’m thrilled
that he’s agreed to take on this new role. If you're interested in
being part of the ongoing conversation about process improvements, we
have the public teampractices mailing  list for this purpose.
VP of Engineering and Product Development, Wikimedia Foundation