Someone recently asked me what one thing would make any company’s Agile transformation and adoption more successful? Almost before the question left their lips, I shot back – “great reviews, company-wide great reviews!” The most mature Agile organizations I’ve seen have regularly scheduled company-wide review meetings.
These reviews are light on presentation and heavy on demonstrating working successes. The other positive factor for these review ceremonies is that they have active participation by managers, leaders and C-Level executives. These organizations regard reviews as sacrosanct, too important or valuable to be interfered with.
During my Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training a few years back, our class was struggling to find an answer to the Magic Management Metric question. The Metric that enables managers to say, “Ah-ha! Now I get this whole touchy-feely, self-organized Agile mindset thing.” Our instructor was a little put off by the idea that we needed to prove our worth and the value Agile brings to the powers that be at our respective companies. His terse final answer was that “If a leader wants to know what the team is doing, come to the review!” After all, valuable working software delivered on a continuous basis trumps everything, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, the reality is that the teams have become victims to our own self-crated Frankenstein’s monster. Most self-managed teams haven’t made it easy for leaders to attend even a handful of reviews. Each team plays by their own set of rules: some use two week iterations, some deliver daily but you can probably be sure that only 10%-20% of the reviews happen on the same day and even fewer happen at the same time.
This could be one of the driving factors towards the need for a more scaled multi-team view for agile delivery that is becoming more popular in the marketplace today. Process and program are seen as the glue that will bring various teams to communicate together. It’s not that companies don’t value individuals and interactions; they just value process and tools more, because the other way isn’t working too well.
The reality is that it is still desirable and possible to deliver customer value across self-organized lean teams, and many great companies are succeeding in doing so. One way is by adopting regularly held All-Company Agile celebratory review meetings to help foster the collaboration and communication team need to be more effective. It’s still about the interactions and delivering working software. For any enterprise looking for a better way to radiate information on a consistent and customer focused way, here are some ideas to help your teams and leaders engage and execute healthy “All-In” review ceremonies:
- Have ONE all-company review meeting; every team and every leader should be represented. This is sacrosanct, and it is the highest priority meeting on people’s calendars.
- Teams need to synchronize their review cycles to a regular meeting cadence. This can be helped by having teams align to their iteration schedules.
- Have a set schedule order for who is speaking, but don’t over prepare. Keep it concise, but allow enough time to show each team’s results.
- Each team gets an opportunity to demo their valuable customer working software during the review. Use collaborative online meeting options like GoToMeeting, if you have distributed teams.
- When it makes sense, show your customer using the new and improved software. DevJam’s David Hussman recently recommended using your mobile devices to record customers demoing the software as a great way to accelerate Product Driven Learning. You don’t need a documentary, just live, real video feedback.
- Reviews should be Agile method agnostic. You can regularly review the valuable accomplishments of SCRUM, XP and KANBAN teams at one time. It’s okay!
- Cheering, hooting, clapping, and congratulations are encouraged. It’s called a celebration for a reason. Woot, Woot!
- Feedback is encouraged, but even more important is having leaders engaged, present and observing what is and is not working and learning how to, as www.IllustratedAgile.com’s Leadership Engagement model shows, Encourage Monitor and Remove Big Impediments to support future team success.
- Facilitate the time for feedback collection and Q&A to help keep the meeting on track. Use other creative methods like breakouts, note cards, or a simple post-review on-line survey to collect and report feedback back to the product owners and teams.
- Course correcting is still reserved for the team-led retrospectives. Teams should regroup soon after the review, provide feedback and make tuning observations to improve future results. Then the actions should be shared, and provided to the appropriate levels across the org.
The interesting thing I’ve discovered from observing All-In reviews is that when everyone from the CEO down to the Summer Intern celebrates the wins of two weeks of effort, multiplied by many teams delivering substantial value to customers on an early and often basis, everyone wins. EVERYONE!
What types of actual results might you begin to see using ALL-IN reviews?
Team health becomes more transparent and the need for health-check driven metrics is reduced. This increases the time available for productivity gains and the overall delivery team morale. Quality is more apparent, defects are reduced and the feeling that I should check my Facebook or LinkedIN pages at work goes down. Leadership’s motivation to remove impediments and understand “the system” and the knowledge of what is truly going on goes-up. And finally, the ability to achieve shared company-wide goals and demonstrate the ways teams are impacting customers in a positive consistent way is recognized and encouraged to thrive.
Tom Peters says you should “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Our highest priority should be to review team accomplishments, promoting even more success, more agility and more happy customers!
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