Once in a while, we decide to take a whole day with the team to look forward, but also to get some new inspiration. I’ve been running this workshop as a facilitator, and the format has been very appreciated, so I thought I would share it with you!
We separate the day into two parts, before and after lunch. The idea is to “zoom out” and get inspired before lunch, and then “zoom in” on the work closest in time for the team.
Before lunch the focus is to look ahead (maybe 2-3 years) to set out the direction for the team. All team members also get their chance to speak up on what they think are the most important things for the team to do in the near term future (1-6 months). Just before lunch, it’s time for some inspiration! That could be an external speaker coming in, some in the team that want to share an interesting topic or even watch an educational video together. The topic chosen shall be related to the team’s work, but not be about actual work (that is covered in the afternoon).
This blog post is mostly about explaining this section in the workshop, that will be done below. But first, let’s look at the agenda in total (so you can copy and use it yourself 🙂 )
Agenda for the day
- 09:00-09:05 Welcome (Facilitator)
- 09:05-09:50 Direction for the team, 2-3 years ahead (Manager from mid- or top-management, dependent on your company size)
- 09:50-10:00 Fika break
- 10:00-11:00 All participants to share (10 minutes each, again dependent on team size), what they see as the most important things to get done in the team 3-6 months ahead (All)
- 11:00-12:00 “Inspirational talk” (External speaker, Team member or Youtube video)
- 12:00-13:30 Lunch (All, take the opportunity to take a longer lunch to socialize)
- 13:30-16:30 Planning for 1-6 months ahead (All + Facilitator)
- With the information given before lunch, all things are listed on a whiteboard. Then we go through each item in the list and place them in a matrix (with “complexity” on the X-axis and “value” on the Y-axis).
- When everything is placed out, what shall be part of the coming 1-3 months is decided.
- 14:30 Fika break
- 16:30-17:00 Summary and closing of the workshop (All)
- Summarize what has been decided (see above).
- Mini retrospective – Let everyone share their thoughts about what they have gotten out of the day.
Execution of the planning part
Ok, the team is inspired and not hungry anymore, let’s spend some time on how to execute the planning part of this workshop.
List the work
With every team member given the opportunity to share their mind, it should be fairly easy for the facilitator to start to write down work items in a list on a whiteboard. The key for this part is to NOT go into discussion of each work item added in the list, that should be kept for later. Usually this step takes 20-30 minutes to perform.
Example of list of work:
1. Work item X
2. Work item Y
N. Work item Z
Try not to add more than 20-25 work items. If you add more, you will not have the time to discuss them enough in the next section.
Discuss each work item (“complexity” and “value”)
(Example of references to work items added to the chart)
Now comes the tricky part, that needs to be carefully facilitated. Each work item from the list is added in a chart with:
- Effort/Complexity on the X-axis – How easy (or hard) something is to do, is usually quite simple for the team to understand and have an opinion about.
- (Business) Value on the Y-axis – Here the team has to give their opinion on the value the work item will bring. Value is very subjective, one rule of thumb is that it shall mean some sort of business value for the company. When you have added a few work items to the chart this part gets easier and easier, then you can ask “Will this work item Y bring more value than work item X?” (work item X already added in the chart). If yes, you will place work item Y higher up than X, if not, you place it lower and so on.
Write the reference number to the list in the chart, if you have the work items on post-it:s, you can place them in the chart. If you are successful you should end up with something that looks like the picture above.
Select work items for the near future
Final part, before wrapping up, is to discuss and decide on the work items to pick up for the near future (1-3 months). This is how you should think:
- Upper left corner (“high value, low effort”): This is the “low hanging fruit” that you obviously shall pick first! These work items bring “high value” to a “low effort”.
- Upper right corner (“high value, high effort”): Your next focus shall be to look here for work items that bring high value. Maybe you can also discuss them in a bit more detail to bring down the effort needed (start by doing small pieces of the work item).
- Lower left corner (“low value, low effort”): You might want to consider work items here, since they are “low effort”, but not before any work items “above the X-axis” (giving “high value”).
- Lower right corner (“low value, high effort”): Any work items ending up here you should not consider at all!
You can see above in the picture what we selected (circled) as next work items to do in the two coming releases of our product.
Did you find this blog post interesting? Here is another blog post I wrote about value. Our goal is to revisit this planning within 3 months, and update with new work items and to review what we should focus on next.
All the best,
Tomas from TheAgileist