3... 2... 1... LIFTOFF!
Updated: Oct 10, 2018
It is my absolute pleasure to share that I have facilitated my first team liftoff! While I have participated in sessions previously, this was the first one I have facilitated. Not only that, but it was for a team situated half way around the globe! Yes, I am going to be a remote Scrum Master for this team. I know some Agilists may be horrified at the thought of a such a thing, but this is the situation we are in and we are going to find a way for this to make this work for us! It is my hope that the dynamic of the situation will have the team see that they are going to have to look to each other for primary support. This is a trait I would expect from a mature Scrum team. But I have faith that if we instil this early into the makeup of the team's culture, we will quickly grow an awesome self managing team! So what happened exactly?
Well as I said I am indeed remote to the team! I booked a meeting room for most of the day and removed the majority of the furniture to give me some room to work with!
On the back wall, I planned out items we would likely need to cover and what kind of order I thought would be useful! Though I fully expected the team to drive much of the direction through our discussions.
On the glass wall, I ended up sticking a load of stickies with various scrum responsibilities (not pictured above) which would make up an alignment activity and discussion. Credit to @geoffcwatts for that activity!
I used the whiteboard to outline some items that would make up the team charter, and preloaded the flipchart with a few useful pages.
The monitor was set up to show the hangout and helped me line up the webcam so the team could see the working areas.
Last but not least, the laptop had some crib notes for me to look at just in case (I ended up not needing them!). Oh and I had by trusty Scrumdiddlyumptious Box on the table with all the supplies I would need, more details on that box in a later blog!
The time for the liftoff came and the team started to join the hangout... separately! I had preemptively booked a room at their site; which I asked them to reconvene in so we could be a co-located as possible.
I was joined in my Sanctuary of Stickies by my mentor @ReevesHall and my colleague Mark (who is mentoring the team's Product Owner) to help with the process.
We kicked off with my asking the team about their pre-scrum adventures and current work commitments. I was swiftly brought up to speed about the teams trials and tribulations thus far. We went into a bit more detail than I had bargained for, however it was a useful exercise as it started to resemble the outline of our first sprint!
I felt that had been a bit intense so we could do with something a bit more light hearted - but still important - the team name! After a few minutes of teasing suggestions out of the team, we did a few rounds of dot voting and landed on a punny name of "Not US". Since the team is based in the US and it was understood they would be working on LATAM projects rather than US ones - Who is working on that project? Not US!
We then moved onto the anatomy of the team it self and looked at what our roles are within the team. We all knew what our roles were to be before this meeting, but it was highlighted that we would need some system testing expertise within the team - One for me to see if I can fix for the team somehow!
Well we knew what our roles were called, but how well did we understand each other and our own responsibilities.
I presented each sticky with a responsibility to the group and had them come to an agreement where it went on the (prepared) chart. This generated a lot of healthy debate and discussion as there is a mix of scrum knowledge amongst the team. The interactions were healthy, respectful and taken in excellent humour.
Once we had placed all of the stickies, I started to add my input as to my understanding of the scrum guide and stickies meanings. We had a discussion and stated cases for moving some of the responsibilities around. My mentor stepped in a few times to challenge my interpretation (See "Ensuring the team is able..." and "Ensuring the team is doing..." are in rather specific locations 😛) which was good for the team to see that there is always room for discussion and that things are contextual!
By the end of the exercise we all had a clear idea of each others responsibilities and overlaps. An encouraging theme was that many of these things; the whole team can get involved and be a part of making it a success. I could not stop smiling all the way through.
At this point we had burnt through much of our time we had agreed for our timebox (2 hours) and we still had a ways to go. The team decided that we should attempt to tackle the team mission. Due to the chaotic nature of the forces that brought this team to where it is now, our short term goals are clear, but the overall mission of the team certainly was not! The team really struggled to articulate what they were expected to do. So I started to write key words onto a clean flip-chart page and Andrew used his experience and recent exposure to the Spine model to tease information and drill into the need we were to fill.
We first got to a very general statement about supporting Product, which seemed very generic in one place but too specific in another. More importantly it was revealed that the team WOULD be doing work for the US after all! The pun was now nonsensical! All was lost! I made a small suggestion of adding the word "just" in the middle which the team immediately, enthusiastically and unanimously agreed was a worthy addition.
Looking at it now it is a better name. It is a reminder that this team, while autonomous, is not alone in this and like how they will support each other, will need to have the support of other teams across the business, around the globe.
Revitalised by our quick re-brand, after more discussion and tactical questioning we got a second statement which covered further aspects of the teams work! Time was really getting short now and we were trying to find a way of working them together. I idly suggested a certain string of words which used most of the things we had written down, which again resonated with the team... but meant I had to remember and write it out! Apparently I missed off Product but I refused to wipe it all out to make it fit (hence the teacher red pen correction!)
We called it a day there and with the final five minutes left we did a quick around the room to see how we all felt about what we had just done. The feedback was generally positive with some understandable apprehension about adopting a new way of working. That being said the team seemed happy and enthusiastic to complete the rest of the charter! We are reconvening next week to finish this off and establish the teams heartbeat activities.
This was a great experience for me. We did not achieve everything that we set out to do, but we learned a lot about each other. I will be working with the team to craft the next session to make it better focused and adjust the agenda to suit.
I was worried about how being remote would affect the quality of our interactions but the a tactical application of tech allowed us to make it work for us!
Have you had any experience launching teams remotely? Or been a Scrum Master for a team located on a different continent? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment, tweet @ me, message me on Linkedin or email me!
I will end this entry with the following thought
It is "not just us" on this journey and we will only succeed if we all work together!
Be seeing you!