Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The birth of a workshop on (about) 15 sheets

While deliberating on how I might put some flesh on the bones of the idea of developing an agile coaching service incrementally - workshop by workshop - I ran into an old friend of mine, Pieter, who was having trouble with his (complex because distributed) scrum implementation at AerData. They had started well but had stalled slightly as the workload increased and the technical landscape had gotten more complex. We quickly realised that we might be able to help each other out - Pieter's team might benefit from some hands on training in particular aspects of scrum and we (Qualogy) would certainly benefit from being able to deliver a prototype workshop in a friendly environment.
We agreed to give it a go. We set up a meeting such that we could discuss with those involved (the team) what might benefit them most. Wouter and I used  a questionnaire like the one displayed here (derived form a larger questionnaire of ours for assessing scrum implementations) to guide our information gathering during that meeting.
Our discussion led us to collectively conclude that AerData would be best served by a workshop on user stories, and specifically on user story splitting (techniques). We agreed to make the workshop as interactive as possible.

Back at the office, the ideas for the workshop started to flow

We thought about the essential topics
And generated a backlog
We worked on the slides, and worked on them, and worked on them...
We searched for the ideal configuration of the workshop...
(splitting) sprint duration etc
We tested whether or not we could expect to cover most of the splitting techniques against the sample story AerData had sent us. (As it turned out we ended up using a different story in the workshop itself; that's agility for you!)
And came up with this agenda (whereby the various splitting workshop slots would comprise, in total, 10 sprints of 15 minutes each)
And suddenly, the day itself was upon us! Things started badly and within a half an hour we were in danger of losing our audience completely. The happiness metric confirmed our suspicions as we went into our first break; we re-organised the agenda, cutting the duration of the remaining broadcast and re-scheduling it such that we would have at least 2 interactive sessions before the next (and final) broadcast...
Things definitely got better as the day progressed. Especially satisfying were the few moments during the hands-on activities when people clearly clicked to some concept or other...
Like the power of acceptance criteria (also as splitting technique)
We finished up the day with the perfection game. Despite our poor start everybody seemed quite pleased with the ground we had covered and how we had gone about it, we had responded well to change!
Our own conclusions in a nutshell:
Workshop structure was too waterfall! We will strive in future for strict adherence to a cycle of broadcast/interactive, broadcast/interactive. Broadcasts must be (tightly) limited in length and the ratio of sprint length to number of sprints should favour sprint length (i.e. 5 sprints of 30 minutes is more useful than 10 sprints of 15 minutes)

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