Last week we launched a new promotion to help organizations and their software development teams begin to adopt agile practices called The Two-Week Project Bootstrap. This is the complementary "next step" from our Pitch Your Boss service, which provides a low-key, exploratory discussion about agile practices, to actually doing them in a real-world context. It's very easy to talk about agile, and while we are passionate about communicating our enthusiasm for Scrum to others, we also want to help them put theory into action.
The inspiration for The Two-Week Project Bootstrap comes from Jeff Sutherland's recently-published business fable, The Power of Scrum (see my review here), that describes the travails of a new team ramping into Scrum to rescue a beleaguered project from disaster. We wanted to capture and put into motion the essence of Sutherland's short story in a turn-key engagement, providing customers with a hands-on, real-world bootstrapping experience without having to gamble on meeting an experienced Scrum coach in an airport pub to guide the transformation (the plot device used in the book).
Irrespective of whether your project is in-flight, in trouble or greenfield, The Two-Week Bootstrap is aimed at helping your organization begin an agile transformation for world-class software delivery.
What Happens in a Two-Week Project Bootstrap?
A Two-Week Project Bootstrap begins with an initial consultation to understand the context of your current project and the people who have been entrusted to deliver a release. We examine questions similar to the following:
1) What products and/or services does your business provide?
2) What are your expectations for the software product you're developing?
3) How have past projects been delivered? What went well? What did not?
4) How do you believe Scrum can help?
5) Does anyone in the organization have experience with Scrum or similar agile frameworks?
6) Have the proposed team and your organization been approached about changing direction?
This information is used to help tailor and target our training and guidance over the next two weeks.
Once this is complete, we set two very important dates: When we will commence the two-day Scrum Training session and when we will begin the first Sprint or iteration. Our preferred schedule would look a little like this:
The reason we prefer this chronology of events is twofold: First, we keep training fresh in the minds of the team as they go into their first iteration, second we establish the optimum rhythm for a Sprint (iteration) that allows us to create predictability in our delivery: Mondays we plan; the following Friday, we deliver and inspect and adapt the product and ourselves. Over many projects we have found two-week iterations to strike a balance between the length of time a team typically needs to create a working, tested product increment and the time the business needs to make effective, timely decisions about the product and project.
The final part of the initial consultation involves advising on establishing a Scrum Team Room. In order for The Bootstrap to work, the team needs to be co-located in a space where they can work collaboratively without the obstructions of walls or cubicles. Ideally, this should be a room large enough to accommodate the developers and their equipment comfortably, along with whiteboards and a large screen monitor or projector. Whereas the Scrum Team will be practically living in this space for the duration of the project, its selection must be considered carefully.
Scrum Training for Everyone
The Two-Week Project Bootstrap rubber hits the proverbial road when everyone involved with developing the new product or service are trained in the fundamentals of Scrum. We employ innovative techniques to quickly immerse participants in the rules and then begin to apply them. Our objective is to give context to "getting agile" and how it can be leveraged to enable world-class software delivery. We also want to pump-up everyone for the work ahead!
At the conclusion of training, we ask everyone if they are willing to participate in the Two-Week Project Bootstrap using Scrum. This might seem pointless, but it is a small and important first step toward changing attitudes about project delivery: Empowering teams and individuals instead of ordering them about.
Filling the Roles
Once we understand the rules of Scrum, we need to fill three Scrum Roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master-in-Training and The Development Team. These three roles comprise what is known as The Scrum Team and each have specific objectives:
The Product Owner is responsible for setting the priorities of the project and providing direction to the team to earn ROI with each delivered increment of product functionality. This is an intensive, team position that is roughly analogous to being the General Manager of a sports team or a Product Manager.
The Scrum Master-in-Training is responsible for learning the rules of Scrum and ensuring they are followed by the team AND stakeholders. Working closely with our experienced Scrum Master, they learn the fine art of "Servant Leadership" that keeps their team productive and how to liaise with the Product Owner and Stakeholders to ensure the best possible ROI is being realized every iteration. This is a FULL-TIME role and should not use a developer in a part-time capacity.
The Development Team is ideally comprised of 5-9 software professionals who as an aggregate possess the necessary skills to create the product increment. This includes software developers, testers, UI/UEX, architecture, and the like. It is all dependent on the product or service you're creating.
Planning the Sprint
With the schedule, training and team in-place, the work of the Sprint begins in earnest early Monday morning! Our objective is to demonstrate how to plan a Sprint with the resources you have at-hand. It might feel a little like working without a net, but we find the best way to start working with Scrum is to start working with Scrum. This means we plan only as much as we need to get started - four hours max.
The goal is to build a Product Backlog with just enough work to fill the iteration and then break them down into discrete, estimable tasks that the team can execute.
Executing and Reviewing the Sprint
Over the next ten business days, the team works collaboratively to create their first increment of functionality that will be reviewed on the following Friday. This is a very intensive, hands-on period where we provide the structure and stability to help the team begin to adapt to a new way of working. Our experienced Scrum Master, along with the Scrum Master-in-Training, facilitates each Daily Scrum team meeting, answers questions from the team on process and rules, and helps them prepare for delivering their increment at Sprint Review. Additionally, they work with the Product Owner to help them keep their backlog groomed and prepare for the upcoming Sprint.
After the Sprint Review, the Scrum Master(s) and Team hold a brief meeting (The Sprint Retrospective) to reflect on their experiences of the past Sprint and what should be done to improve for the next one. This oft-overlooked meeting is vital for adopting Scrum (or any agile framework) and is a non-negotiable if a team is serious about their transformation. We provide our customer teams with a number of innovative ways to facilitate Sprint Retrospectives so as to leverage them to full advantage.
Based on the past iteration, The Two-Week Project Bootstrap concludes with a wrap-up meeting with the Team, Product Owner and Stakeholders to determine if Scrum is right for them. This is the go/no-go point. If the effort is greenlit for successive iterations, the option is now open for the organization to either continue engaging us for helping coach a number of Sprints, or to go it alone. In the latter case, we offer two weeks of complimentary phone and email support to get the team and organization through the rough patches.
Want to know more? Contact us to set up a free, no-obligation consultation session to see if The Two-Week Project Bootstrap is right for your organization. In the meantime, get a copy of Jeff Sutherland's The Power of Scrum to get an idea of how a transformation to world-class software delivery is started.