When a new team is formed we hope that it will be long lasting, and that it eventually will become high performing. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. What determines the success? Despite there are no guarantees of success, there are still things you can do to increase the likelihood of your team becoming high performing. In this blog post series, I would like to share some experiences of mine, from starting up new teams. Inspired by the Liberating Structure “Purpose-to-practice” I am helping the newly formed team to design five essential elements to make the team resilient and endurable. The 5 elements are Purpose, Principles, Participants, Structure and Practices. This post will cover my approach to help the team design practice.
Practice are key for success
After all, what we do is what determines our success. Therefore designing the element of “practice” is essential for a teams chances of success. For a Scrum team that wants to harvest the benefits of Scrum, the ability to create a “Done” increment each sprint is essential. This session is specifically designed around the practice of “getting done”. First step, of getting there, is knowing what ‘done’ means, and why it matters, and this is what this session helps explore.
Which structures and why
This session is kicked of with a 1 min self reflection, just to get peoples thinking going, before jumping in to the activity.
The backbone of this session is the Definition of Done exercise made by Christiaan and Barry from The Liberators. This exercise is designed to create transparency of the consequences of not getting to a proper state of “done”. I highly recommend purchasing this exercise (No, im not sponsored. I paid for it myself), as it is also applicable for virtual teams. Specific instructions on how to facilitate is included in the package, so I’ll leave out the details here. Overall the group get a chance to have conversation around mapping typical developer activities to common steps in development process. Hereafter the group will do the same with typical unexpected problems.
After the Definition of Done exercise I added the Liberating Structure Min Spec, to help the team form their first Definition of Done. This is for specifying the absolute must do’s to deliver a “Done” Increment, which also is a set of practices we rely on to achieve success.
My observations and experiences
The short 1 min silent reflection in the beginning gave participants a chance to “arrive” and tune in to the topic. If time allows, it could be beneficial for the group to share there thoughts with each other.
For a non-Scrum team, it might be beneficial to design the session around a broader question, such as “What practices much be in place in order for us to achieve success?”.
Putting “Done” as a theme for discussions about practices, allowed me to take the Scrummaster stance of teacher to my scrum team, without being the preacher. This initiated a specific conversation on this essential practice.
Depending on experience, the group might need some guidance on which patterns to see from the definition of done exercise.
While there are many activities to take into account, for reaching a “done” state, the Min Spec, helped narrow the list in to the truly essential. The list became short enough for the team to actually take ownership for it. It is better to start with a list too short, which can be extended as the team gain experience, rather than making a complete list, which no one will look at because it is too comprehensive.
Liberating Structures fundamentally changed the way I work, and they are helping me becoming successful as Scrum Master and Agile Coach. Liberating Structures are a set of patterns, that allows a group, of any size, to collaborate and self-organise around a topic, problem or challenge, by involving and unleashing the potential of each individual.
The structure Design Storyboards has proven very useful to me, when preparing meetings and workshops. Even though it is designed for a group, this structure fundamentally changed how I prepare to facilitate group gatherings.
It really helps me focus on the goal, and then select the best approach to achieve that. Without this, it is easy to fall in the trap of selecting the structure/activity first, and then missing the goal.
Answering the following questions, help me stay on track. The visual representation that comes out of it, serves as my “facilitation canvas”.
What is the purpose of the gathering?
What structures would I normally use for this session?
What Liberating Structures or other activities could achieve that purpose?
Which structure/activity is best suited to achieve the purpose?
What should be asked to debrief if the gathering achieved the purpose?
The answers are recorded in the “storyboard”:
The visual representation of the planned gathering is a great way to create shared understanding and foster fruitful conversations about what we want to achieve, when planning together with a group.
I have found it hard to use this structure together with people who did not yet discover the power of Liberating Structures or are not familiar with some Liberating Structures. So far I have been preparing on my own, presenting a design storyboard to the group, and then working from there. That is not really the intention, as my opinion will be more dominant, and makes it harder for others to contribute… Yet it is still better than what we use to do.
I have realized that Liberating Structures are helping me with being a more successful ScrumMaster. I have written about my experienced benefits of Liberating Structures as concept, as well as links to useful resources in the first post of this series. This post is about my experiences and reflection on a specific Liberating Structure. The primary reason for writing about it is for the sake of my own reflection. If you can use it as well, that’s awesome. Also, if you disagree, have questions, or if you spot room for improvement, don’t hesitate to comment.
Context and reason for choosing
The team had previously identified the need of having a Definition of Ready. Previous attempts in making a Definition of Ready has resulted in a poor list, which the team stopped referring to quickly after the meeting. And when a team member mentioned the need of a Definition of Ready, heated and unfruitful discussions emerged about should we have it or not?; What should it contain, and what not?
As a Scrum Master I needed to find a way to facilitate a discussion that gave everybody equal possibility of contributing; a feeling of being heard; ownership for decisions made, as well as doing it effectively, to avoid wasting time of worthless discussions.
The “Min Spec” is designed to Specify only the absolute “must do’s” and “must not do’s” for achieving a specific purpose so I chose this for the Team’s Definition of Ready workshop.
The group consisted of 4 people in the room, and 2 via skype, and me (facilitator)
Steps and reflections
I highly recommend to read the original Min Spec description from the inventors, which I used as basis for this Definition of Ready workshop. Below I have listed the steps I went through, along with my reflections.