Thursday, 16 February 2017

Just-in-time Training for an Agile Release Train Quick-Start

The three key ingredients in any ART launch are: teams, a well defined, force ranked feature level program backlog and the knowledge to execute in a lean and agile manner. In the case of the A&I ART, we now had teams and a backlog, we just needed the knowledge. This is where the SAFe for Teams training and the Scrum Master and Product Owner Orientation workshops came in.

Monday morning the teams returned to same venue we had used for the self-selection event, to commence two-days of SAFe for Teams training. I was thrilled that the organisation had taken our guidance and had gone all in for the event. Even the department head attended the entire two days.

There is something about all the teams on a train, including the leadership team, learning together, with their Scrum Masters and Product Owners that is just magical. Having spent many years convinced that training circa 100 people at once was nuts, then going through the process a number of times, I have to say I was wrong. If Harvard Professor J. Richard Hackman is to be believed, 30% of a team’s eventual performance is dependent on the initial launch of the team. Personally I cannot think of a better way to launch a team of teams than two days learning together.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Facilitating Squadification for a SAFe Agile Release Train

The squadification day had arrived! We had management buy in to allowing people to self-select into teams and a structure for our new new Agile Release Train (ART). I turned up with my Time Timer in tow ready to facilitate what I hoped would be a great beginning for this brand new ART.

Over the course of the week leading up to the self self-selection, the thought of launching a new ART with no experienced Scrum Masters had been on my mind. How we would find the right people for those Scrum Master roles? I tend to choose what I read based on what is on my mind, so I had picked up my copy of  +Geoff Watts's Scrum Mastery and reread a few chapters on my flights to and from Sydney that week.

I took two bright ideas away from this: (1) we had to reinforce the message at self-selection that the Scrum Master role “holds no authority", and (2) when asked to nominate a Scrum Master teams tend to know instinctively who will be the right fit. Inspired by this my first task on the day of the self-selection event was to track down the Release Train Engineers (RTEs) and suggest that rather than letting individuals self-select into the Scrum Master role we let the teams nominate their Scrum Master after the squads had been formed. They were agreeable so that became the new plan.

Now we had to get organised. Flip charts were drawn up for each squad and a Product Owner’s photo added. Everyone else's photos were laid out on a trestle table at the front of the room.  By 9:15am we had almost  full house, so we decided to kick off. I opened with a quick run through of the agenda for the day, followed by the lead RTE who set the scene for why they had chosen to use self-selection as the approach to forming teams. Then it was back to me to run through the logistics for the morning.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Preparing for Team Self-Selection with SAFe & Structuring the ART

Those who know me will not be at all surprised to learn the first thing I did once there was agreement to use self-selection as the approach to forming teams for the A&I Agile Release Train was buy and read +Sandy Mamoli's book Creating Great Teams: How Self-Selection Lets People Excel. I had heard Sandy talk on the topic some time back and my colleague +Mark Richards had previously used the technique with +Andy Kelk at Australia Post, so I wasn't walking in blind.  My experiences with watching people bastardising SAFe made me want try and stick as closely to Sandy's guidance as possible. Specifically we chose to keep the number of constraints placed on the teams to the absolute minimum. In hindsight, I may have been a little naive on this front, but more on that later.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The 6-Day SAFe Quick-Start with Self-Selecting Teams

For those not familiar with the SAFe “Quick-Start" (also known as the one-week launch) is a proven pattern for launching an Agile Release Train. A textbook Quick-Start goes something like this:
  • In the weeks prior to the Quick-Start:
    • the feature backlog is refined and prioritised (using WSJF), and;
    • the people who will be doing the work are grouped in teams of 7+/- 2 with a Scrum Master and a Product Owner
  • Day 1 and 2 of the Quick-Start all the teams attend the 2-day SAFe for Teams training, sitting at team tables with their product owners. During the training they work with real features from the program backlog.
  • Day 3 and 4 the train holds its first PI Planning event.
  • Day 5 the Scrum Master and Product Owners attend role specific orientation training
  • And then you start sprinting! 
I realise this sounds all fine and dandy if you are working with an organisation that is already Agile, but what if they are new to Agile? Can you still Quick-Start? Absolutely you can. At this point, you may be thinking I have completely lost the plot. This sounds like utter madness, I know. I thought it was madness too, until I tried it and realised it was truly amazing. It is my hope that as you make your way through this series of blogs posts on the 6-day Quick-Start you will get gain some insights as to why this approach is such a powerful way to launch an Agile Release Train.

Getting back to the point, you may have noticed the textbook Quick-Start is only five days. So where did this sixth day come from?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Tribal Unity - The Book

Some of you may have noticed my blog has been a little quiet this year.  One reason for this is that I have been busy writing my first book - Tribal Unity: Getting From Teams to Tribes by Creating a One Team Culture. Some time soon I will blog about my agile book writing experience. Today, however, it is time to celebrate. This week, on the 27th October to be exact, my book went live on Amazon and Agile Denver threw me a launch party!

Me introducing Tribal Unity to Agile Denver