2015 Jul 17

Every second Thursday

Here at Industrial, as part of our agile working methodologies, we work in two-week sprints. We start and stop our sprints every second Thursday. Why not Friday you ask? We feel it’s very important for the entire team to take part in the events that take place at the end and beginning of each sprint and generally vacations are taken on a Friday, as opposed to a Thursday. This is what every second Thursday looks like for Industrial:

9:00 - Demo - We all gather round in our team collaboration working space with couches, whiteboards, and a large monitor to show off any work that has been completed during the past sprint. It doesn’t matter how big or small the work is (could just be a feature or could be the launch of an entire site), it’s important that we take a minute to reflect on what we’ve completed. This creates a sense of pride and accomplishment and goes a long way in getting the entire team up to speed on all the great work that is being done by our colleagues. We’re a pretty modest bunch so sometimes it takes a bit of encouragement to convince someone that what they’ve been working on is worth showing to the team, but in the end we’ve learned that each of us brings unique skills to the table and what one developer may consider to be second nature, a designer may see it as amazing. 
 
9:30 - Retrospective - Also known as “Retro.” Once again, we all come together to pause and reflect on the past sprint. And when I say “all,” I mean ALL…from the junior dev, right up to the CEO. At Industrial, we believe that everyone has an opinion, a voice, and adds value. During retro, we take part in a series of exercises designed to get each other talking about what went well and what could be improved upon in the next sprint. I am the facilitator so I don’t take part in the exercises, but I choose which ones we will do, keep the conversations going, keep things on track from a timing stand point, and note any issues or action items along the way. The retro lasts about 1.5 - 2 hours and gets broken up into the following parts:
  • Review results (how did we do at achieving our goal for the last sprint?)
  • Review action items (did we do all of the things we said we were going to do from our previous retro?)
  • Set the stage (quick exercise to check in on the temperature of everyone’s feelings)
  • Gather data (exercise to help everyone remember the past sprint and start reflecting on what happened)
  • Generate insight (exercise to determine why things happened the way they did and if there are any patterns or major issues)
  • Decide what to do (exercise to help chose a few of the major issues to work on and plan action around fixing them)
  • Close (quick closing exercise to check in on the temperature of everyone’s feelings post-retro)
Sometimes we find certain exercises that work really well and repeat them a couple retros in a row. But generally, it’s important to change things up by trying new activities so things don’t get stale. There are no shortage of retro type activities out there online to help come up with new ones to try. For example, I’m a fan of http://www.plans-for-retrospectives.com and http://www.amazon.ca/Agile-Retrospectives-Making-Teams-Great/dp/0977616649. Also worth noting, because we are a smaller team (12 people) and have shorter sprints (2 weeks), we have found that we only need to do a full retro every second sprint (so every 4 weeks). We found that doing a retrospective after every single sprint was overkill for us. We will, however, always review the results and action items each sprint. 
 
11:30 - Sprint Plan - The team now spends about 30 minutes preparing for the next sprint. We use a tool called Jira to manage all of the tasks that need to be completed each sprint for both our clients and our internal projects. During sprint plan, the team reviews all Jira “cards” or “issues” that have been set up by the project managers and put their time estimate on them. Once all cards are estimated, the team chooses their goal (how many of the tasks they feel they can complete) based on the capacity of the team for the next sprint. 
 
12:00 - Beginning of next sprint! - This is usually the part where people get back to work to start on the next two-week sprint. And oh yeah…we order everyone pizza for lunch. Retro days can take a lot out of the team so we need to recharge and get jazzed about the next 2 weeks to come.