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New Scrum Kickoff Planner Aims To Help Agile Teams Start on The Right Track

by Craig Smith on Oct 24, 2012 |

A new "Scrum Kickoff Planner" has just been released by Adam Weisbart with the aim of facilitating team discussion around the important facets of starting a new Agile team or project.

The guide is a PDF document that is designed to be filled in as part of a kickoff discussion with the core Scrum team. The document was to designed to encourage discussion around a number of key points including the team and their agreed approaches and tools for collaboration, the role of the Product Owner, sprint scheduling, coordination with other teams, definitions of done and ready and agreed approaches to estimation. As per the introduction to the guide:

[The] guide is meant to give your group some basic questions to consider when forming (or rebooting) your team. Print out a copy for each team member, block out some time, and sit down together to fill it out. The main purpose of this planner is to foster collaboration and communication. Like a good user story, it’s meant to encourage conversation.

The Planner is the latest in a long line of free and useful tools and ideas that Adam has introduced to the Agile community, including Agile Manifesto and Values posters, the "Update the Card Wall" reminder application, the "Build Your Own Scrum" exercise and the "Agile Antipattern Project".

InfoQ caught up with Adam to find out some more about this new resource for the Agile community.

InfoQ: Who is your target audience for this guide?

When I created the planner, I had 3 main audiences in mind:
  1. New Scrum Masters: Like most folks, I got my official start as a Scrum Master by taking a Certified Scrum Master course. My instructor, Jimi Fosdick, was amazingly helpful, and his two day course prepared me to start doing Scrum. And by "prepared", I mean it gave me enough information to go out into the world and be dangerous. It takes years and years of practice to become a real master of course, but I was fired up and excited to hit the ground running. I put the "Scrum Kickoff Planner" together, in part, to help ensure that students of my Certified Scrum Master course have a tool to help them be more successful setting up their first teams. I was lucky enough to be able to bug Jimi with Scrum Kickoff questions. As I don't expect he'd appreciate me giving out his cell number to people here, I've created this planner with the aim of guiding you through the process, a little like a coach would.
  2. Teams Having Trouble: In my coaching I run into a lot of teams that have been doing Scrum for a while, but are feeling stuck. What I've discovered is that it's often due to them not having a firm foundation. The "Scrum Kickoff Planner" helps lay a firm foundation for teams, so it can be a great tool for those teams looking to reboot. The questions in the planner can lead to good conversations. Good conversations can lead to good teams.
  3. Agile Coaches: The planner is a great assessment tool for covering all your bases as a coach, for the same reasons it’s useful for teams that need a reboot. Coaches are using the guide in the field to help ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

InfoQ: Do you have any suggestions on the best ways for teams to have the conversation using this guide?

I suggest using the guide in the most interactive way possible. The only way I have seen teams go really wrong using the planner is to have one person type into the form on their computer while everyone else sits around. Boring. Print the planner up, and hand it out to each team member. Have everyone scribble all over it, consume it, make a mess of it. This is a great time for the Scrum Master to use some facilitation techniques. Break out the post-its and sharpies, and run an hour long session on the Definition of Done. Have everyone brainstorm individually on what they think goes into their definition of done for 5 minutes of silent writing, then facilitate a conversation about each point by using affinity grouping. Have fun with it!

InfoQ: What do you suggest the team do with the information once they have collected it?

Artifacts are good, but conversations are better. I encourage teams to create living artifacts that promote more conversation. For example, once a team has come up with a Definition of Done (DoD), I suggest they post it next to their task board, or wherever they have their daily scrum, so that they can review the DoD when they decide together if an item in their sprint backlog is done. Scrum Masters would do well to help their team remember to review their DoD and update as needed. I suspect that over time a new team's DoD will become more strict as their engineering practices and teamwork improve. Keep the DoD artifact alive by having conversations about it and updating it as needed. If your team has a hard time remembering when the different meetings happen during your sprint, by all means, post the schedule you created together using the Planner in the team room as well.

InfoQ: If people need some more help in how to fill out areas of the guide, do you have any suggested sources for help?

I would love to hear from folks that need help, as I'd like to continue to update the guide with useful information. People can do this through the comments section of the blog post introducing the Planner. If I get a lot of interest there, I’ll set up a more in depth online community around it. If there’s a ton of interest, I’d consider holding a regular online meetup as well. Lastly, if your team needs more hands on help, my colleagues and I at CollabNet offer on-site assessments, training, and coaching using the Planner and other tools.

InfoQ: Why do you think such a guide has not existed before?

Each time I’d start up a new team prior to this Planner, I meant to create this document. I suspect there were others in the Scrum Community thinking the same thing. Trouble is, when you’re in the trenches, and you only start up a team or two a year, the ROI on writing a planner is low. Knowing that I would continue to start up many teams a year and that students in my classes need a planner like this, I finally sat down and created the content. I think people are really busy with their teams and don’t have the extra time. I’d like to help Scrum Master’s and coaches that don’t have the bandwidth, and that’s the main reason I decided to share it with the community. I believe it increases a team’s chance of success, and more successful Scrum teams in the world is good for us all.

InfoQ: Are there any improvements you are considering for the guide in the future?

Yes! I'm currently working on a set of supporting materials that will act as a tutorial for some of the more in-depth items like: creating a Definition of Done, how to define a Product Vision, etc… I'm also excited to hear from folks who've used the planner and start integrating their suggestions where appropriate.

The "Scrum Kickoff Planner" is available as a free download from Adam's website. Do you have any approaches you use or essential discussion points that you cover up front when setting up a Scrum team?

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Excellent start. But needs iterations by tushar jain

Excellent start. You can think of adding few more heads in planner like:

1. Holiday list ( for all locations if team is spread out at multiple location)
2. Celebrations ( Birthdays, Anniversaries, any special day like Big game between 49er and Lions, India Pak Cricket match, any festival, etc).
3. Potential Hazardous days (e.g. any strike proposed by Taxi drivers in Delhi where few of the Team members are located, fire drill, etc)
4. A table which shows various time zones and their conversion if team members are in different time zones.

The heading Team Values you mentioned in Planner looks good on paper but does it make any contribution while planning? I wonder.

You can also think of using spread sheet instead of plain document to facilitate better customization.

Nevertheless, Planner is good start in right direction.

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