It’s….. been a busy few months!
Product One – Coordinate the backlog and sprint planning across 1 experienced team in Christchurch (where I’m based) and 2 new teams in Auckland. Make sure the experienced team (doing the bulk of the work) have enough to keep them working on a large focused customer delivery. In addition, the two new teams need well defined, small but independent stories that will help them learn the code and domain, and enable to start contributing value to the product.
Product Two – Having just taken over this team in Canberra and with no depth of experience in the domain, I have focused on getting good processes and touchpoints between the team and me established. I am leaning heavily on my Product Manager who is the Domain Guru to help, and we have got one release out, completed Release Planning for the next one, and with ongoing regular contact, the team continues to perform well remotely
Product Three – Another new team in Canberra, with a different Product Manager, significantly different domain, and significantly different style of working. Once again I am focusing on learning the team’s operating style, and getting our processes ironed out. The focus with this team, and a relatively new product, is to really understand the main use cases and try to stop going down the rabbit-hole of edge cases so we can take a viable product to market ASAP. A lot of our process refresher discussions and Release Planning has focused on this.
All the teams are great, accepting of the changes and enthusiastic and positive about working together.
We’ve had some great SCRUM / Process discussion sessions and are on the same page about how we want to work.
Our structured Release Planning and backlog grooming sessions have been great, and teams appear to be happy with the process leading to a clear and defined scope and target date – which hasn’t always been consistent.
It’s hard to ask the right questions and uncover the areas that are critical v/s not when you don’t know very much about a domain area – and of course this domain is so complex, with lots of clinical risk. However this is going to be a critical skill and I need to learn how to do this – fast!
It’s difficult to work with remote teams, and much more so when the people on both sides are new. We’re still working out what each of the individuals are like, what each of us want, how we work, and it’s exponentially harder remotely because you can’t read facial expressions or body language over Skype chat. You could get left out of key conversations or miss little details because you’re not listening to the little chats going on, and they often forget to loop you in – or don’t think it’s worth asking about. A couple of times, even with discussions, people have finished up a conversation with some people thinking a different decision was reached than others.
Expectation Management! Frankly, it’s difficult when Product Managers (who are so influential in what is done, and how the team works) work so differently. One (who has a number of products in their portfolio) is happy to provide general direction and guidance, check in regularly and give you lots of autonomy and background information to stories, and access to clients and stakeholders to understand the business value. Another (who has just one product and therefore more time) prefers to be a lot more hands on, will work with UX and Technical leads to fully develop the user story and all artefacts, and just present it to the team as “Build this” and resists sharing information about context, background, or users. You can guess which one I find more inspiring! 😉
All in all it’s been a huge learning curve, but oh boy is it busy and stressful! I’m hoping that in the next 3 months, things will settle down and standardise and it won’t feel quite like the never ending race anymore!