Brief summary of LiftOff – Launching Agile Projects and Teams

Lift Off

 Diane Larsen and Ainsley Nies

  1. In a project Lift Off, everyone associated with the project come together to define the initial intentions, approach, and plans and begin team building
  2. We give attention to lift off because
    1. It is hard to recover when teams don’t start well
    2. Uniting strategy and execution keeps everyone focussed on what the customer needs
    3. Business and development team move in alignment creating a shared understanding of what is involved
    4. Group of people gets the opportunity to begin building themselves into a team before the pressure of development work begins
    5. Attention to starting well helps everyone to express what the project can or should accomplish and begins the collaborative effort
    6. Everyone learns about the broader project community and what each group of stakeholders needs as a deliverable or wants from their involvement
  3. Project liftoffs typically start with an initial session to clarify the broad outlines and intentions for the project.
  4. Liftoffs follow a variety of formats including Agile Chartering sessions, Agile practise boot camps and other forms.
  5. An effective project lift off
    1. Achieves alignment by establishing a clear, shared understanding of what the project involves and why it exists
    2. Builds momentum by getting into the project community and core team to start the project
    3. Clarifies roles and develops working relationships among project community, core team and sponsors
  1. Typical goals of a kickoff workshop
    1. Brief team members about the project history and current planning status
    2. Coordinate of role assignment, work packages and interfaces
    3. Inform about processes tools and reporting structures
    4. Clarify codes of conduct for customer contact
    5. Collect of input for risk management purposes
    6. Get to know one another and taking first steps towards becoming one team

Planning a Liftoff

  1. Are we really ready to start the project – a discovery process
    1. Does the deliverable have a committed sponsor and identified product manager?
    2. Can the business case be articulated?
    3. Does the project have a budget?
    4. Do we have a clear intention for what we want the project to accomplish?

Designing a liftoff

  1. Every liftoff needs a sponsor or executive introduction
  2. Only include activities in the liftoff that have real work purpose
  3. The best liftoffs create a sense of ownership of the outcomes
  4. Every work group and project team needs agile chartering
  5. Take time to include participants in design decisions

Agile Chartering

  1. Agile chartering means taking the time to ground everyone in a common understanding of what you want to accomplish
  2. 3 critical elements of a charter – Purpose, Alignment and Context
  3. Agile chartering is a lightweight minimum documentation approach to creating initial understandings, agreements and alignment about the work and how it will be accomplished.
  4. Agile chartering catalyses the interactions needed to accomplish the work, facilitates a quick start on delivering software, accelerates collaboration within the team and across the project community and sets the context for replanning when new information becomes available
  5. Chartering is a discovery and negotiating activity that transforms bright ideas into valid and manageable work efforts. The charter balances the interests of the project gold owners with the capabilities of the development team
  6. Agile chartering builds project unity from 3 primary elements
    1. Purpose – provides inspiration and conveys the meaning of the project. Purpose includes the product vision, project mission and mission tests
    2. Alignment – helps the project team create an alliance to achieve the mission. Alignment includes shared values and principles, core team forming and cohesion and working agreements
    3. Context – reinforces and extends alignment agreements. Context includes the boundaries and project community interactions, resources commited to the project and prospective analysis.

Chartering purpose

  1. The purpose provides inspiration and meaning for the project.
  2. Product vision describes the desired future your project will help to bring about, while the project mission describes how your project contributes to creating that future.
  3. A product vision illustrates the ultimate expression of customer value, the reason for the project to exist, the big picture, the overarching outcome you want to manifest. It is your guidepost to the desired future.
  4. A strong product vision inspires a team to put in the effort to make it a reality
  5. The project mission describes your team’s unique contribution towards achieving the product vision.
  6. A mission demonstrates four characteristics
    1. Description of the project’s customers
    2. Actions the team will take to deliver the product
    3. The product or service the team will deliver
    4. Differentiating and compelling value of the product to the customer
  7. The project mission clarifies the boundaries of the work for the team and everyone associated with the project
  8. Mission tests delineate the indicators for successful project outcome. By writing mission tests you itemize the qualitative and quantitative intentions that define “done” for the overall project
  9. As a core team, you use the mission tests to know what the project will be measured against and as decision filters
  10. Working agreements are a set of operational guidelines to help your team accomplish a mission. By defining working agreements, your team members forge a pact how they will interact,  behave and produce
  11. Working agreements may include topics like
    1. Practices to give special attention
    2. How communication / conversation takes place
    3. How the team makes decisions
    4. How to deal with conflicts
    5. How to handle design decisions and coding standards
    6. Definitions of done
    7. Meeting times ,frequency, attendance and agenda
    8. How facilitation and other maintenance roles are handled
    9. Agreements around distractions
  1. Context includes project boundaries, interactions with project community, committed resources and prospective analysis to anticipate opportunities for risk and benefit
  2. Boundaries define the relative responsibilities of the core team and others in the project community. The purpose of defining project boundaries in chartering is to enable smooth flow.
  3. Prospective analysis is a method of looking ahead and checking assumptions about a project – taking into consideration the risks and the benefits. One of the ways of doing prospective analysis is to come out with an Impact Probability chart which lists out the impact to the project (on a scale of -3 to +3) and the likelihood of it occurring on a continuum scale.  This is pretty similar to “Give yourself an A” from the Art of Possibility and “Remember the Future” from Innovation games
  4. From moving to liftoff to flight – 3 points to consider – Metaphor, Charter  components and Team Development
  5. A metaphor often emerges during liftoff – project metaphors can provide powerful connections and shorthand for project team and community
  6. Use Purpose, Alignment and Context  as decision filters / course correctors to clarify project dynamics throughout the project

One thought on “Brief summary of LiftOff – Launching Agile Projects and Teams

  1. Pingback: Improve your Retrospectives with this 1 weird trick: Liftoffs | Finding Marbles

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