Getting a new Agile team up and running, Part 1: The kick-off workshop

Aug 19, 2015 by Simon Petkov


One day you find out that you have to start a new team. It’s exciting, because you have a chance to begin from scratch and make a fresh start. However, it is not as easy as it looks.

According to Bruce Tuckman, there are 5 stages of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning.

The first one, the forming stage, represents the time when the group is just starting to come together and is characterized by anxiety and uncertainty. The focus for the group members during the forming stage is to become familiar with each other and their purpose, and not focus on work.

We can help an Agile team pass this stage faster by:

  • Gaining an understanding of the group's purpose
  • Determining how the team will be organized and who will be responsible for what
  • Outlining general group rules

Here is an example of a general overview for a workshop, which can be ran to achieve these objectives.

Who should be there?

The entire team – every team member and contact from the business side. If someone cannot make it, then find a different date – it is very important that everyone has a say.

How much time do we need?

This workshop is usually about 5-6 hours long, depending on team size.

What can help and has to be done?

Running a training beforehand like this is beneficial. This kind of training introduces the team to agile terms and frameworks and helps everyone to be on the same page.

Here is how to run an agile simulation workshop:

Part 1. Purpose (10-20 minutes)

Try to kick off the day with a short speech by someone who can talk about why it’s so important for everyone to be there.

Sometimes this is the Product Owner or someone senior in the company; it’s actually anyone who can provide adequate context and reasoning behind why the team is necessary for successfully building a product.

It is usually very inspiring and a nice way to start this workshop.

Part 2: Get to know each other (about 1 hour)

I do like the Market of skills activity. It focuses both on getting to know each other and the competencies of the individuals of the team.

Part 3. Team identity creation (about 1 hour)

Encourage team members to come up with a new team name and perhaps a team logo. New people feel more included in the team if they are involved in the team’s identity creation process.

  • Ask the team to shout out their ideas and write them down on the whiteboard for 10-15 minutes
  • Everyone votes for the 3 names they like best (~ 5 min)
  • Choose the top 4 (give or take) names and have each person explain the meaning behind the name and why it is good (~ 5-10 min)
  • Re-vote with a blind vote (i.e. not influenced by each other; for example, my team wrote their ideas on stickers and put them up all at once) (~ 5 min)
  • You should have a winner!

Team roles and general process (1-1 hour 30 minutes)

The “agile ingredients” activity suits this purpose. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Generate a list of Agile ingredients (roles, activities and artifacts) from the Scrum, Kanban and general Agile practices. Have people shout out the ingredients and write them on a whiteboard.
  2. Discuss each practice and decide whether to use/not use/introduce later. Make sure you discuss why you made this choice and have a conversation about the purpose of each Agile practice.
  3. For every ingredient, discuss why/why you should not use them, and the purpose of each practice.
  4. For every practice the team decides not to do, ask how else the purpose could be achieved.
  5. Agree on who will perform the roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master as well as their responsibilities.

Part 5. The practical stuff (about 1 hour)

Now it’s time to deal with the practical stuff, such as:

  • Definition of Done(DoD) – this is a group discussion where participants come up with a checklist of what is needed to be fully done in order for the “story” to be ready, from potential shipping to production. You don't need to prepare a detailed DoD with a lot of points; just create a checklist containing 4-5 points. You will be able to improve it after the first sprint.
  • Definition of Ready – this is a group discussion to come up with a checklist of the points that prove the story is ready for development.
  • Agree on what happens next:
    • Sprint length
    • Meeting times
    • Tools to use

In addition, make sure that everyone is aware that this is just the beginning, and that everything can (and will) be revised later.

What can be done next?

After this workshop, your team will be ready for the following steps:

  • Sprint Zero workshop
  • Roles and Responsibilities workshop
  • Product Discovery workshop
  • Agile Team Facilitation training for key team members
  • Business Value Analysis training for the Product Owner


I’m sure his workshop doesn't answer all your questions, but it helps the team to:

  • Get to know each other
  • Gain experience with working in this particular group
  • Understand the purpose of their group
  • Agree on base processes and team roles
  • Agree on base working agreements

All of this moves the team through the forming phase faster and allows the group to focus on their work.

In the next blog, I will share my experience of how you can help a team in the Storming phase.

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