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

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 new start. However, it is not as easy as it looks upon first glance.

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

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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, 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 plan for a workshop which can be run 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 or 6 hours long, depending on team size.

What can help and has to be done?

Running a forehand training like this is beneficial. Such training introduces the team to agile terms and frameworks and helps everyone to be on the same page.

At least agile simulation workshop

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Part 1. Purpose (10-20 minutes)

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Try to kick off the day with a short speech by someone who can talk about the reason why everyone is there.

Sometimes this is the Product Owner, sometimes it is someone senior in the company, actually it’s anyone who can provide a lot of context and reasoning behind why we’re building this product and why we need this team.

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 mins)
  • 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 mins)
  • Re-vote with a blind vote (i.e. not influenced by each other, my team wrote their ideas on stickers and put them up in the air all at once) (~ 5 mins)
  • You should have a winner!
Part 4. Team roles and process (1 - 1,5 hour)

The agile ingredients activity suits this purpose:

  1. Generate a list of Agile ingredients (roles, activities, artifacts) from Scrum, Kanban and general Agile. Have people shout out the ingredients and write them on a whiteboard.
  2. Discuss each practice and decide 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 not and the purpose of the practice.
  4. For every practice the team decides not to do, ask how else the purpose will 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 to 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.

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What can be done next?

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

Afterword

This workshop doesn't answer all questions, but it helps the team to:

  • Get to know each other
  • Gain experience of working in this particular group
  • Understand the purpose of their group
  • Agree on base processes and team roles
  • Agree on base working agreements
All this moves the team through the forming phase faster and allows the group to focus on work.

In the next part I will share my experience of how you can help a team in the storming phase.

Comments

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  • This is a nice way to bound with your teammates
    Bogdan Zara - just now