Archive for November, 2011

Dynamic Story Board: KANBANizing story map

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions”. Albert Einstein

An interesting thought came to me while thinking on how to bring in dynamics in story map to make it a tool that will help PO both in day-to-day work/tracking and overall release management.

Key benefits that will serve this are:

  • A full picture of upcoming product being built (within scopes of upcoming releases);
  • Transparency about features are being worked on now/coming soon;
  • Highlighting what features are READY and DONE;
To get the complete idea one needs to know the concept of story maps.
Combining this idea with KANBAN flow management framework makes a nice tool for PO:

Dynamic Story Board

So, let me explain what rows of it mean:
  • Done row indicates stories that correspond to the functional areas of the product and are accepted by product owner in sprint review meeting(s), having story definition of DONE met.
  • Areas row indicates key functional areas of the product as any story map has.
  • Wip row indicates work-in-progress, e.g. stories that are part of the running sprint (that team committed upon);
  • Ready row indicates stories that are ready to be presented to team according to definition of ready. PO moves stories in this row only if those compliant with INVEST rule;
  • Pipeline row indicates all the stuff that is planned for the future. As you can see some stories are non-READY here for whatever reasons (not yet completed, or even bigger items (epics) that are not yet prepared for sprint planning and thus cannot be taken by development team);

NOTE: pipeline row can be splitted itself into several rows to indicate scope planned for releases.

This simple board will serve as Kanban-style board turned by 90 degrees CCW. You can always add rows that indicate whatever states your PO team will find beneficial. Such a board can be easily used by PO daily in managing both day-to-day focus on getting READY for upcoming sprint, while keeping an eye on overall priorities and backlog.

Here’s real-live example implemented:

Dynamic StoryMap LIVE

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Team DNA: how to Brand up your team

“People like talking about people. Makes us feel superior. Makes us feel in control.
And sometimes, for some people, knowing some things makes them care.” [HouseMD #113]

As described in earlier post in “TEAM: 7 indispensable ingredients for Together Everyone Accomplishes More” one of the key elements of a strong team is Brand.

An idea to apply known brand-building practice to team management seemed to me interesting and made me write this blog post.

So I would like to cover a useful tool that can be applied to build up your team brand…

Team Brand is essential team motivator that cannot be given to the team (by company, management, money, etc.), it needs to be build inside, owned and maintained by the team. Actually this is type of “achievement” and “idea”-motivator for a Team (here cross-functional, self-organizing teams are meant, although practice is applicable for any team of small size).

In other words, Team Brand serves as an alignment on its core values/ways to achieve, inspires team by having strong and challenging core set, while distinguishes team among others.

Team brand may be built as any corporate brand starting from key cause or a purpose, moving from core through the benefits (qualities, values) to attributes (tools, norms) supporting and transmitting them.

Well, but an agile self-organizing team needs a hint  to start thinking of themselves as a “company”, having a “brand”. A hint that envisions this mind shift would sound like:  think of your TEAM as of an entrepreneurship and your collaboration as of an inspiring challenge! Imagine you’re running business with your peers (which is not that far away from reality, considering self-organized  development team doing SCRUM).

There are 3 questions to be addressed then by Team members together to get an alignment on:
  1. WHY are we here, what we want to achieve together, what is our core, our strongest believe and our purpose? Why do we exist as a TEAM? Which core value we all share?
  2. HOW we can make this happen? What principles (benefits, qualities) support this?
  3. WHAT we exactly will do (and will NOT tolerate) to support each of the key principles we’ve agreed upon that contribute to our purpose?

A tool I recommend to use at this step to create and maintain team DNA is known “Team Radar” retrospective facilitation activity (see “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great”  by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen for detailed explanation).

It simply suits best  this exercise.  Here it is used to gather data on team itself and perform self-assessment in the future.

An outcome applying this practice to an Agile self-organizing team may look like this:

As soon as agreed Team DNA is documented, printed out and placed in visible area (ideally at the team scrum board and/or also very usefull in retrospective room). This will serve as a point to refer/remind when choosing for right decision/action and will keep team motivated to comply everything they think, decide and do with their core.

But this “artifact” shall not be “curved in stone”. It’s living, since team is also living. So on and on reviewing it, team curves itself, making their brand stronger and more unique, by finding out deeper levels of their own common values, purposes, beliefs  and means, achieving them.

The more team does so, the more it finds it’s own distinctive way doing things and becomes more distinguished (“branded”) and valued by managers, stakeholders, POs, etc…

Good teams that value the way they perform and look, care about this and move further finding out more challenging cores, supporting principles and norms.

Besides that it’s a funny collaborative action that contributes to team building.

Brand up your Team, guys 🙂

Further reading/sources:

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TEAM: 7 indispensable ingredients for “Together Everyone Accomplishes More”

There are thousands of articles and blogposts about what makes a strong team. Here’s my view on what makes bunch of people being a TEAM and what qualities strong team should have. It is based on observation of all successful (and therefore strong) teams I’ve ever met, experience working with and/or built.

Assumption: it would be necessary to assume that group of people shall have common Goal as key motive and prerequisite to become a TEAM.

1. Self-commitment:  this is key important characteristic of a strong team. Commitment to the team, putting the team interests first—and commitment to each individual on the team in helping him or her become everything he or she can.

2. Brand: this is aligned vision, strategy, purpose and values of the team. Team identity, both internally spoken/unspoken and transported inside and outside. These are the things every team member believes in and those that are “reflected” in team norms and via way team perceived from outside, that determines unique team behavior,  team distinctiveness. This is team motivator first place and only second place team “label”.

3. Trust and care: mutual trust and value of each other, expressed in giving positiveness to each other regularly and helping out just if someone feels bad for whatever reason. Not being afraid to be/look vulnerable to each other. Standing for each other in hard times! All for one and one for all!

4. Peer-pressure: to be able to move, team should have a mechanism that keeps “wheels rotating” daily. Either a team lead (or a peer-pressure in self-organized teams). That is managerial ability of a team to put constructive pressure and spread sense of urgency and accountability around peers that makes team doing whatever is needed to achieve the Goal.

5. “Short Distance” for continuous improvement: having time together creates a good context where “distance” becomes “shorter”, leading to being more comfortable and open with non-comfortable questions, – key for state known as “storming” (see Tuckman’s stages of group development) that is indefensible for team to change (self-improve). Strong teams embrace change when they need to.

6. Transparently communicating: to understand each other, a team has to be willing to invest the time necessary to share their states, feelings and opinions openly. Without talking and listening to each other on a daily basis, team may fall apart. And it’s very important to happen also informally, not just during status meetings or stand-ups.

7. One Boat in to win-win: there is no my/your work to be done or my/your goals to be met or “I’m done, now it’s your turn while I’ll slack around…”. Responsibility and accountability for everything team does and is shared among team members. Successes and failures, happiness and disappointment, praise and blame is a shared pie to eat.

There are many other specific traits that different teams have, however those mentioned, are common pattern for almost all strong ones, regardless of what they are up to, what business they are working for, etc.

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