The Harvard Business Review has published an article on How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity in making their movies. The link is only a summary to the full article (which is paid), but it does provide some insights on how Pixar approach their film making.
Building complex software systems is very different to making a blockbuster film, but one thing in common is the people behind it. The way Pixar approach their film making is very similar to Agile practices.
Pixar have cross functional teams – Pixar assembles cross-company teams and find people who’ll work effectively together.
Pixar incrementally build out the movie – Though it is incomplete, Pixar demonstrate the animation work daily to enable the team to communicate important points to the entire crew at once and get candid feedback.
Pixar has self-organising teams – They help the teams to solve issues and the teams are trusted to solve complex problems themselves. People are encourged to help each other produce their best work. Managers are not afraid to hear bad news and they do not micro-manage the team. It is interesting to note that the managers are
okay to walk into a meeting and be surprised.
Pixar is constantly learning and improving they way they work through retrospectives (they called it post-mortems).
Pixar asks post-mortem participants to list the top five things they’d do again and the top five things they wouldn’t do.
This way they can extract the most valuable lessons and constantly inspect and adapt the way they work.
Can you produce a blockbuster software system?