Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Setting up the "Agile" Team Room


A key element of Agile projects is the need for real time, dynamic communication. One way of accomplishing this is to co-locate the team, and use low-tech communication tools that are easy to understand, and easy for the team to keep up-to-date. For many organizations, in particular those that are new to Agile, how do you set the team space up effectively?

Physical space and co-location

The most effective layout for the physical team location is co-located desks and shared access to plans, status, next steps, and other project planning and management tools. The picture shows the physical space from an effective team. Team members are not separated from each other by offices or cubicles, but rather share desk and team space in an open concept environment. In teams that must be geographically separated, then tools for conducting virtual meetings such as conference call phones, instant messaging, shared electronic documents and tools are leveraged to minimize the distance and separation.


War Room
The war room is a shared team space for conducting meetings and sharing project planning tools in a real-time and dynamic manner. Ideally this is a physical meeting space near the team area. The typical elements of a war room would include:

  • Team Structure - the basic "who's on the team", including contact information
  • Client Organization Structure - Who are the stakeholders and how do they all fit together
  • Team goals and objectives - Why are we here. What are we trying to achieve.
  • High level plan, Mid Level Plan - The overall project milestones, and the key iterations and release dates, with the anticipated objectives or deliverables for each
  • Roles and Responsibilities - A RACI style chart with the internal and external roles and the person on the team who is responsible
  • Story Board - The stories for this iteration, what is complete, in-progress, and not started
  • Purpose and Vision
  • Client Deliverables - This may seem straight forward, but a reminder as too what we as a team are trying to deliver
  • Client Phase Exit Criteria - What are we marching toward to complete the current phase and achieve signoff
  • Team performance survey results - A summary of the latest team survey or other self-reflection the team has performed, and the key lessons we are trying to learn
  • Story Stack - The scope of the project
  • Communications Plan - Team meetings schedule and logisitics
  • Meeting Agenda - The standard daily team stand-up meeting has a strict, short agenda so we can complete it within 30 minutes
  • Issues and Next Steps - The whiteboard list of next steps, dates, owners, to be checked during each team meeting
  • Risks - The whiteboard list of risks, impact, and mitigation that needs to be taken (with owner)
  • Recognition Awards - Some place to call out great work by the team or individuals.
  • Ground Rules - The team derived rules for respecting each other
Please share best practices or lessons you have learned to set up the agile project team. If you are looking for assistance to set up your team, please reach out and I will try and point you in the right direction.