April 16, 2021


News for Agilists

Pandemic and Sprint Planning! – Serious Scrum

But how can you capitalise this chaos? The show has to go on. How do the Product Owners, Scrum Masters get the team together? Plan deliveries? Adhere to the roadmap? No Agile training got us ready for this! But we know better from our past agile experience that change is constant and we need to “inspect and adapt” to survive this wave.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

It doesn’t matter which Agile product development framework you are using, in the “New Normal” we need to meet online to take care of our Scrum meetings (It can be Sprint planning/Product Increment Planning, Sprint Reviews, Sprint Retrospectives). We follow Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe) to do our product development so doing our Product Increment (PI) Planning meeting right is very crucial.

PI Planning meeting is cadence based meeting as described in SAFe, wherein the product teams break down the customer requirements, discuss dependencies with the partner team and do the complete plan for the next five sprints.

But apart from PI Planning, there are other important meetings in all other Agile Frameworks that need to be addressed like the Daily Scrum, Refinement, Sprint Planning, Sprint Retrospectives. Technology is our best friend in these times. Now there are various online tools to get specific things done. Tools like Zoom for making video calls, increase collaboration with online boards like Google Jamboard, team channels for discussions like Slack, MS Teams; interactive retrospectives with tools like ideaboardz or retrotool.io. There are some really awesome products online like Miro, Mentimeter, Kahoot, Mural which can make all the difference. Based on our recent experience there are certain things that we learned the hard way and could be useful for all teams.

It’s always better to be better prepared than to improvise. If you are planning a big event like PI-Planning or any other team activity, always make sure that the team is given a checklist for the tasks that they need to prepare for, e.g:

Things to do 1 week before the meeting

Things to do 1 day before the meeting

Things to do 1 hour before the meeting

This keeps the team preparation on point and resolves half the need for synchronisation on the day of the meeting. Preparing clear and structured agenda for the day is also an important step. Meeting people online who are joining from their homes, it’s easy for team members to feel lost if there is no clear plan laid out to them in advance.

When you have multiple teams coming together to plan, it’s important for each team to be given their room(a dedicated audio/video bridge line). Also, have multiple small virtual breakout rooms created dedicated to specific topics or activities. It would be highly recommended, if possible to have a moderator who is responsible to make sure that the group can function smoothly and raise a flag for any impediments.

Sometimes it’s not possible to split people further into smaller groups and we have to face the reality of handling big groups in one call. Things can get out of hand very fast. To avoid such chaos, to avoid people talking over each other or have certain individuals hoarding the conversation, it is recommended to have team members use certain code like using colour cards to indicate things like:

yellow card — to say things are going little off direction

red card — to say stop now, time to wrap up

Green cards — for quick voting to say we agree

One thing, I would suggest is to avoid the temptation of recording these online sessions. This changes the behaviour of team members, or worst is sometimes people forget they are being recorded and say something they rather not on the record.

These chaotic times are a true test for all the Scrum Masters, Program Managers, Product Owners. They need to go the extra mile and make sure the development team is equipped to get the tasks done as smoothly as possible. True leadership is tested based on how you function in a crisis. This is the time that the team members would remember months or years from now as to how the leaders of the organisation handled the crisis. I am very certain that these times shall pass but definitely not be forgotten.

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