Planning the team’s transformation process

The text that follows is an excerpt of what the section Planning the team’s transformation process in the workbook “Forming Agile Teams”.

Before we start working with a team, there is a change to be managed, planned and communicated, and that’s the change that you are about to begin when transforming the team into a high-performing sustainable team. A change that requires a lot of effort in time and money which, in my opinion, needs to be supported with a transition plan.

But why do we need a plan to transform a team, isn’t it something that’s going to happen in an agile fashion, I mean iteration by iteration? Why should we care about planning changes, when playing the Scrum Master or Agile Coach role? Well in my personal opinion it depends, but I prefer to have a clear understanding about what’s motivating the stakeholders to invest resources in what I’ve called “the team’s transformation project”.

At this stage of the project, there is not a lot of information about:

  • The reasons behind hiring or even assigning a Scrum Master or Agile Coach to the team.
  • Who does what, when and how things are going to happen (what’s the plan?)
  • The team and its composition.
  • How the team works.

What’s the main goal here?

“Mitigate change resistance by reducing ambiguity, increasing visibility and creating awareness about the project at every level involved”; in order to gain the people’s trust and create the required conditions to successfully reach the people’s heart.

How to do it? How to get everybody involved in the project and on the same page?

First of all, I gather enough information to create the “project charter”, by talking with all the parties involved in the “team’s transformation project”. Here are the steps that I follow to complete this stage of the process:

Preliminary work (It’s all about the team and the environment)

 Purpose: Get ready to talk with project’s main stakeholder.

Tactic: Collect information about the team by meeting with their line manager(s) and asking questions like:

  • Is the team being formed for this specific project?
  • How long the team has been working together?
  • What about team’s development process?
  • Who are the main stakeholders of the project?
  • Who are the customers?
  • How does the team work?

Project Charter content gathering meeting

Purpose: Collect enough information to get everybody on the same page and begin the project as soon as possible.

Outcome: The team’s transformation process Project Charter information has been gathered.

Fill the Team’s Transformation Process Project Charter template

Purpose: Document the shared understanding baseline of the project.

Outcome: Team’s transformation Project Charter is completed and ready to be shared.

High level project plan approval meeting

Purpose: Get common agreement about what the project is about and get the project plan approved. Begin working with the team.

Outcome: Team’s Transformation Process Project Charter has been approved.

Team’s transformation project kick-off meeting

Purpose: Shared understanding for team project members about the team’s transformation project.

Tactics: Hold a one hour meeting and be sure that all interested parties are present.

Ask the main project stakeholder to set the stage by sharing with the audience the two first components of the team’s transformation project charter

Now, it is your turn to go through the remaining content of the team’s transformation process project charter:

  1. Roles and responsibilities
  2. Vision of the team in one (1) year from now.
  3. Short term main goals identified.
  4. High level project risks.
  5. Identify the next step in the plan

Team transformation process Kick-off 

Preparation

Once the Team’s transformation project charter is approved, it’s time to meet with your new team and start building the relationship of trust required to move forward with the transformation process.

What’s the main Goal here?

Establish a relationship of trust between you and your team that would enable the path to the continuous improvement on-going conversation for the team.

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Why is this priority?

If you consider yourself as a change agent, the main thing for people to start changing their mindsets is to trust the person who represents change. Having their trust means getting their hearts and believes in you and what you will bring to the team.

How to do it? How to establish a relationship of trust?

The focus here is to create the conditions and environment to make people feel safe enough to get out of their comfort zones and learn to change continuously.

It’s all about the people

Getting to know the people that you’re about start working with requires time, love and strategy. In my case, I use the steps of the arc of a coaching conversation [1] to approach the team and start learning about them. The first thing that I do is “start exploring”.  Depending of the project, I give to myself a full iteration at least to explore and observe respectfully how the team behave, interact, collaborate and work together. During this period, I would try to identify: Read more[2]

What’s the main focus here?

Our main job here is to be present for the team and be ready to listen actively what and how it’s being said. The intension here is to get enough contexts about the team so it’s recommended to avoid judgement, and put your ears up.

The leadership team first

Some of the questions mentioned above[3], would be answered directly by the leadership team; I mean the Project Stakeholders, the Product/Service owner and the line manager(s). That’s why I strongly recommend meeting with them first, in order to discuss about their vision regarding the project, the product or service and the team.

The leadership team would be supporting what we are about to do with the team, that’s why it’s really important to get them on board collaborating with us, to enable the change within the team, then with the project, and so on.

Project Stakeholders

Stakeholders are responsible for the project, product or service that the team will be working with. Its participation and permanent support to the product that would be develop and the team that would be behind of it would be crucial along this stage of the team’s transformation process.

This role is crucial given that they would challenge what product owners would do along the way and collaborate with the team to build appropriated product solutions to solve their problems or needs.

Regarding the stakeholders and their expectations about the team that would be formed, I like to ask only the main stakeholder, to join the Product Owner and meet to discuss about Product development expectations, in a meeting that it’s explained below.

Product Owner

The Product owner, is responsible and accountable for the project, product or service that the team will be working with. This role matters because money wise these people are making decisions about what would be delivered, why now and when it should happen.

Their capacity to oversee how their product or service would look like in the future, how to plan efficiently to get there and how that is communicated, pass through what kind of team they thing its needed to reach established business goals. I’m referring here to expected team attitude and behaviour, how problems get resolved, the team’s capacity to deliver on time, the team’s capacity to perform under pressure and their ability to adapt to continuous changes.

Here some techniques that I like using to help with setting clear expectations about the product, the team and how we are going to work together:

Product development meeting

What’s the purpose of it?

  • Get to know each other better
  • Discuss about the product/service vision
  • Clarify expectations about the team

Clarify expectation about how we are going to work together:

  • Role and responsibilities
  • How to collaborate towards reaching amazing results.
  • Everything else that you considered makes sense for your specific context

Expected outcome

  • Product Owner and Scrum Master/Agile Coach way to work has been established.
  • Stakeholder team expectation has been discussed and clarified.
  • Product Owner and Stakeholder way to work has been established.

Product planning weekly based meeting

What’s the purpose of it?

  • Assist/Support with keeping the team focused on what’s important.
  • Help with visualizing what’s next in the product pipeline.
  • Create inspect and adapt mindset about the product.
  • Assist/Support with creating the Product Vision.
  • Create product planning habits.

Expected outcome

  • The Product has been planned and the Product Owner is able to communicate what’s next to stakeholders and then to the team.

From what I’ve seen in the field, Product Owners wants to rely on a team who delivers results consistently, as soon as possible, so please let’s remember that when working together with them as our main goal.

Line Managers

Line manager(s) main role is to support their employees activities by providing them the required tools needed to do their job. In an agile environment, there is an additional support required and that is for the development process. Line manager’s capacity to allow Scrum Masters/Agile coaches do their job, and the ability to empower teams to self-organize their work, would be a key factor to consider when working with teams.

Here some techniques that I like using to help with setting clear expectations about management roles, how to support the team and how to collaborate with the Scrum Master/Agile Coach:

Touch base regularly

I used to having monthly one on one with Line managers where we discus about how the team is doing, what the biggest road blockers are and what’s my Scrum Master/Agile Coach perception about their happiness.

Keep the collaboration channel open

Especially in agile setups, Line manager’s need to be creative to find ways to connect and discuss with their teams, without interrupting their flow or becoming impediments to their job. Something that I have tried is to allow especial time at the end of the iterations, I mean after the iteration review and before the iteration retrospective, where they would discuss openly with the team about how things are doing.

The Kick-Off meeting

Now, it is time for you to create the team’s transformation process project charter and get ready for the kick-off meeting. Here the elements to be considered when building project charter:

Team’s Transformation Process Project Charter Template

What’s this project about?

I.e. The cars division wants to rely on team that’s able to deliver any kind of work any time on time and within the forecasted budget.

Why are we doing it right now?

Reason Strategy
E.g. Focus on what brings value to the division in order to increase the Return Of Investment per project E.g. Optimize where the company put its efforts by distributing properly the content to be integrated.

 

E.g. Increase operational efficiency E.g. Improve project planning and prioritization at the Product team level
E.g. Build a high performing sustainable development team

Figure 4-Team’s Transforming Process Project Charter-Reasons

Vision of the team 1 year from now

  • g. a fully collaborative and cross functional team is in place.

Main goals for the next three (3) months

  • g. Team`s Development process is implemented end to end

Roles and responsibilities

Role Responsibilities
Main Stakeholder (Full name) E.g. sets high level vision for the content to be developed.
Product/Service Owner (Full name) E.g. manages development team Backlog

E.g. decides what to do and when (Establishes backlog priorities)

Agile Coach/Scrum Master (Full name) E.g. Shepard’s team’s development process

E.g. coaches the team to become a self-organizing and high-performing sustainable team

Development team (Name of the team or description) E.g. does the job to (description of what the team does)….

E.g. collaborates with Product Owners and the Agile Coach/Scrum Master to increase team’s performance

E.g. raises impediments and make them visible to the team.

Line team manager(s) Full Name E.g. brings support to the team and the development process
Stakeholders (List of all stakeholders) E.g. collaborates with the team and the Product team with grooming the content of the development team backlog

Team’s Transformation Process Project Charter – Roles and responsibilities

High level Risks

Risk Category Description
Human  Resources E.g. peoples resistance to change
Communication E.g. limited support from Stakeholders and PO’s.

 

Resources E.g. project loses interest and stakeholder stop funding it

Team’s Transforming Process Project Charter -High level risks

Process high level guidelines

I.e. This team has been using Kanban as their way to deal with requirements. There are no special events, no time boxed iterations are set and no feedback loop in place.

Kick-off meeting setup

Once the Team’s transformation Process Project Charter got completed is time to set up for the kick-off meeting. Here some of the elements to take in consideration:

  1. Share and discuss the document with the main stakeholder, the line managers and the Product Owner(s).
  2. Verify that everybody is OK with its content.
  3. Organize the kick-off meeting agenda.
  4. Schedule the meeting
  5. Be sure that all parties involved get invited.

During the Kick-off meeting

At this stage of the process, the Team’s Transformation Process Project Charter has been created, the Kick-off meeting has been setup and the day has come to start interacting frequently with your new team. In order to facilitate this process, I like to follow this agenda during the kick-off meeting:

Agenda Responsible
1.    Kick-off meeting’s goal Product Owner/Main Stakeholder
2.    Team’s Transformation Process Project

a.     What this project is about

b.     Why we are doing it right now

c.     Vision of the team 1 year from now

d.     Main goals for the next three (3) months

Product Owner/Main Stakeholder
3.    Team’s Transformation Process Project

Roles & Responsibilities

Scrum Master/Agile Coach
4.    Team’s Transformation Process Project

High Level Risks

Scrum Master/Agile Coach

The Development Team

Once the project has kicked-off and the leadership team has been approached, the main focus is the development team and how to start working together.

With a little help of the Product/Service owner and the development group/team, I would find ways to get to know them as much as possible. Here some techniques that I use when approaching the team and start building the relationship of trust:

Get introduced by somebody already trusted

After asking the leadership team, and a couple of quick chats, it would be nice to ask that person that is already trusted by the team, to introduce you to the group. Using this reference, would influence people’s opinions, ease assumptions and avoid unnecessary judgements to could get in the way of creating an amazing and productive relationship based on trust. If that’s not possible, I love to ask another Scrum Master (if available) to do it for me.

Be humble and listen

At the moment that you join a new team, people start to observe how you behave. It’s normal to expect that people would try you in different ways and with different things during this stage of the group development. Group acceptance, knowledge validation, shared interests and leadership still would be under testing in this face, so please be humble and listen actively to what their trying to say.

Give you time to observe

If you’re the type let’s go and change the world today and tomorrow everything would work fine, well I think that you will learn soon about this way to go. Instead what I do is to take at least a full iteration to just observe and take notes about how the team works, interact and how is everything happening for the team.

Be actively present, on time and ready to rock

If you want to build a relationship of trust with the team, behave showing the example that you want the team to follow. That means, be present physically and mentally 100% of the time. Put your cell-phone, tablet and any potential distraction away, and be there for them.

Be on time and respect your commitments no matter what they do. You want them to see that something new is about to start happening, and that starts with you first showing what to do.

Get ready to rock, which means be prepared to jump in and start helping them. It could be facilitating a conversation or just writing things in a board, just be ready to do what you love the most.

[1] Sue Johnston, The Arc of a Coaching Conversation, www.itsunderstood.com

[2] Jesus Mendez, Forming Agile Techniques, www.jesusmendez.ca/books/forming_agile_teams

[3] Jesus Mendez, Forming Agile Techniques, www.jesusmendez.ca/books/forming_agile_teams