Stay flexible…Stay Agile
In this latest sprint, one of our big takeaways was the continual reminder of how important it is to remain flexible in an Agile marketing environment. We faced one of the most common Agile challenges, how to collaborate and be Agile as a distributed team.
This latest sprint was joined by winter storm Pandora who decided to surprise the entire East Coast. Even here in North Carolina, we saw a mix of ice, snow and rain that shut down many businesses for a day or two. But our team managed to soldier on.
As a company, our culture is built on collaboration. We encourage this through the environment and processes that we’ve built. For our team, much of that depends on proximity and face-to-face interaction to breed that collaboration on a daily basis. And with much of the team stuck working from home due to the road conditions, we had to find a way to conduct not only our daily stand-up, but also as luck would have it, our sprint planning meeting. That meant finding a way to conduct a planning poker session remotely.
Using Cisco WebEx to conduct a planning poker and sprint planning meeting as a distributed team.
As a long-time Cisco WebEx partner, our group is pretty comfortable inside of their online meeting platform, so we decided that we would leverage their Meeting Center tool to conduct our planning poke and sprint planning meeting.
What we ended up doing was listing the planning poker numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40) on the online whiteboard. We then ended up having each individual indicate their ‘vote’ for the task points and discussing if necessary. How this works in WebEx is each participant can have a unique pointer that contains their name. The marketing manager would introduce a task, just like they would in any other sprint planning meeting, and then each person would move their pointer to the number of points they believed was correct for that particular task. Negotiations would occur and a number of points would be set for each task.
It was pretty organic and just kind of happened.
At first, some team members typed their point number on the white board. Others drew it. And some used the pointer. Eventually, most everyone gravitated to the pointers because of the simplicity and how easy it was to see everyone’s vote. Each method had its own pros and cons, but we eventually normalized to use the pointers.
It was great to see this develop naturally and how easy it was to stay collaborative. The last few sprints we learned how important these planning poker and sprint planning meetings were, and finding a way to make them happen despite being remote definitely contributed to our success in this sprint. We will probably default to this method if we run into a similar problem in the future.