Software engineering notes

Onsite offsite

Problem statements

It can be hard to base product vision purely on sprint planning and short, routine meetings.

I see a lot of work invested in quarterly planning, but not a lot of time reviewing.

Information can also be silo’d if only one person on the team is looking at performance metrics.

The logistics of elaborate offsites can dampen enthusiasm.

Solution

Meet as a team once a quarter or so, for an extended period of time.

Assign homework in advance, so participants are warmed up:

  • Review OKR progress
  • Identify projects to invest in, eg via competitive analysis
  • Draft launch announcements for proposed projects

Meet somewhere novel, but convenient.

Assign facilitators to take notes and run meetings.

Agenda:

  1. Retro and review working agreement
  2. Propose projects
  3. Vote
  4. Draft goals
  5. Dinner

Novel location

This is where the “onsite offsite” name comes from. It’s like an offsite, but since the focus is on the team and the content confidential, it should probably be somewhere work-related. A different floor or building is sufficient. Ideally, it’s near a nice cafe or has a good view.

Facilitator

It’s a long day, so preassigning someone to take notes, book rooms, etc removes a few decisions in advance.

Distributed teams can assign facilitators per location.

Agenda

Sitting and focusing for a few hours can be intense, so build in breaks.

Retro

This is consistent with the Agile principles:

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

https://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

Several months of experience is a good amount of time to retrospect over.

I like the 6 thinking hats approach.

Working agreement

I really appreciate my team’s practice of periodically agreeing on shared values and practices.

OKR review

The goal is for everyone to try and assess product health. Do we have the metrics we need? What’s important? Are eng goals aligned with product goals?

Propose projects

This is my favorite, since it’s wide open. What are we doing well or poorly? Does anyone else do it better? What would be fun to build? Any evidence there’s a market for it?

Sticky notes on a whiteboard work well when co-located. It’s also an excuse to move a bit. For distributed teams, local facilitators can help coordinate.

This step is similar to the “shape up” and “betting” steps described in Basecamp’s Shape Up book.

Launch announcement

This provides space to ground ideas. How would we announce the thing I’m proposing we build? Who is the audience? What’s the effect?

Go around the table pitching ideas. Teammates can ask questions.

Vote

As a group, based on what we’ve done and where we want to go, do any of the proposed projects stand out? Can they be grouped to identify areas of investment?

Ideally, this step gives voice to product and platform perspectives.

Each person can vote on, say, 3 themes, eg by writing initials next to themes.

Facilitators aggregate.

Goals

Formulating formal OKRs is ambitious, but OKRs should align roughly with team vision, as indicated by winning proposals and themes.

Dinner

It’s a long day, so the goal is just for the team to refuel and unwind.

Written by Erik

March 11, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Posted in org

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