Continuum Totoro

On the street of Merced in Santiago is Emporio La Rosa, acclaimed as one of the top 25 ice-cream parlours in the world. An ice-cream there was to be a treat after our visit to Continuum, but at the end of the Friday ‘lecture and beer’ where we were guests of honour, the team at Continuum debated whether Emporio La Rosa really was the best in Santiago.
Having been getting to know many in the Agile community in South America for our Agile Around The World study we were advised to meet the team at Continuum as they were tipped to be ‘the best Agile boutique in Chile’. Fascinated to see Agile teams in Chile after those we met in Argentina and Uruguay, we were excited to get the invitation.
We visited Continuum in their homely office at the peak of holiday season so many people were out of the office, but Alfredo still had time to show us around. Inspiring words adorn the walls, posters such as ‘Fail fast, learn faster,’ and ‘Keep calm, we are Continuum’ are plentiful. We loved the use of user story maps on a number of walls where teams had worked with clients to define and break down their requirements. Where possible, clients work in the same office as the teams and all story maps are created by using post it notes on walls. Backlogs are continuously reviewed with the client and in case of fixed delivery date contracts, both client and teams work together to ensure that the most valuable items are delivered. Continuum measures progress by client feedback; are they getting value and are they happy?
As well as providing ambience and comfort, some of the furnishings have a practical purpose; Alfredo showed us a little stuffed toy character Totoro, that team members use for rubber duck debugging.
Continuum are a small team of 18 people and they purposely keep the company small, lean and true to the values of when Continuum was formed. We were told that they would never want to have more than 18 people. Alfredo told us the story of one of their developers, an ex-accountant who had worked out a way to automate most of his job. He automated himself out of work, but these are Continuum types of people. The Continuum team takes on clients that they feel they can have true collaboration with as defined by the Agile principles. It means that Continuum team members are engaged with their clients, seeking innovative ways to fulfil their requirements.
Given the size and type of organisation that Continuum is, staff turnaround is low so they have had plenty of time to form highly performing teams. With a small team, staff outings can be a little more grand; we heard about their trip to Torres del Paine for example.
Now if they could just agree on where to get the best ice-cream…

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