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Agile Team Swarm Day

by Cody Wanberg

A couple of sprints ago, our team committed to spending one day fully focused on delivering value together. Our plan was to dedicate one full day to sit together in one room and work on one story until it was finished.

Choosing a Sprint Task

The morning of the swarm, we met together to choose a sprint task. After some discussion, we settled on a goal: “Get all content for Agile MD created so that Eric can kick a$$.” 

For a bit of context, Agile MD is a new mobile-based questionnaire we are developing for an upcoming conference. The idea is to collect some basic information from people who visit the booth so that they can do two things: 1) Gauge the level of their team or organizational agility and 2) help provide quick, meaningful data that can be used in a session with one of our Certified Agile Coaches.

Our task was to create the content--the questions essentially--so that Eric could build out the software in increments over the next few sprints. We worked in small increments, writing all of the questions we could think of. Then we stopped and shared our ideas with each other, choosing the best questions and rewording others. We also called a couple of Certified Agile Coaches (one CTC and one CEC) into the room to act as proxy stakeholders for us.

Immediate Feedback & Diverse Perspectives

It was really cool to be in the same room and be given the opportunity to get immediate feedback. It was also great to see how people were able to contribute from their lens and experience, even if it was not necessarily within their skill set. 

Beyond this, I was really proud of each member of the team taking chances to have honest conversations that challenged each other to think differently. These discussions led us to scrapping some “features” that we originally thought were quite valuable. 

Mission Accomplished & Lessons Learned

I am happy to share that we not only met our goal but left with insights that will help the next time we do this, some of which I am going to share below just in case anyone wants to try this in the future.

What We'd Do Differently

  • Long days make for sleepy days, even if there is good work to do. Next time we might do this over two days instead of all in one.
  • Distractions happen but sometimes they are necessary, even if to allow people to have a break from the work. Next time, we’ll build in a few breaks between working blocks.
  • It’s hard to work with Product Backlog Items that were refined two weeks ago.Next time, it would be great to start with a blank canvas, creating PBIs in the moment to reach a goal that the team defines.

What we loved

  • Honesty, collaboration, and listening were key contributors to how the day went.
  • Being able to include stakeholders in a way that allows for immediate feedback is invaluable.
  • Challenging each other to think differently yielded different but wonderful results.

Biggest Win: Teamwork

Even though we did accomplish a great deal and learned a lot, the real story is not about what we did or what we found out. The real story is actually about the people. It is a story about people trying something new, even though we had no idea what it was actually going to look like. It’s a story about people who discovered the benefit of working closely with stakeholders. It’s a story of people who took chances with each other by offering up their work for almost immediate review and feedback. Finally, it’s a story of food, laughter, a few dead trees, and a valuable product Increment that can be built on in the next sprint.