Give Teams the Best Information at the Start – Interview with Diana Larsen

On June 12th, Diana Larsen will be the keynote speaker of Scrum Day San Diego.  As we move into the last month before our event, we made the opportunity to have an email chat with Diana about her latest projects around Lift Off and her upcoming talk at Scrum Day.  If you want to learn more about Agile Chartering and how to launch teams successfully, register now for a full day of Scrum and Agile goodness with Diana and your San Diego friends and colleagues.

  1. Tell us about LiftOff.  Simply, “LiftOff” is the name of a book that I wrote with Ainsley Nies, and a way of calling attention to a missing practice in Agile – paying attention to how teams get the best possible start on building a product/service.
  2. Why is LiftOff important to Scrum Teams?  For too long we’ve wrestled with the problem, how do we help teams effectively collaborate, reach high performance and, even the dreaded word, self-organize.  In part, we accomplish that by giving teams the best information and conditions at the start.  LiftOff gives guidelines for setting those conditions and pulling together “just enough” information that a team needs.
  3. What are the main steps of LiftOff?  There are three.  First, a LiftOff facilitator works with the product people (PO’s and Product Managers) along with business sponsors and, possibly key stakeholders, to draft a first rough draft Purpose Statement and plans the various elements and logistics of the LiftOff.  Depending on the organization’s and teams’ needs, the LiftOff event might be a day or a week.  The work with product people might take a half day for a simple Agile Chartering process, or longer if other elements (e.g. training, retrospectives on past product initiatives, etc.)  Second, step is running the LiftOff with the whole team. We describe that in the book.  Third, is iterating on revising and refining the team’s Agile Charter, as more is discovered about the nature of the product, feedback, how the team is working together, and so forth.  As Woody Zuill says, “It is in doing the work that we discover the work.”  The ongoing, iterative Agile Charter refinement ensures that everyone has the same understanding as those revisions are made.
  4. How is LiftOff different from something like Sprint Zero?  I’ve heard Sprint Zero used primarily as a “set up” week, getting a workspace together, getting equipment and tools up and running, etc.  Many of the tasks accomplished in a Sprint Zero could be part of a LiftOff.  Others, like research spikes, are less likely to fit.
  5. What is the one part of LiftOff that you have to get right to be successful?  IMHO, teams get the most benefit from the activity of Agile Chartering.  The actual Charter itself will change over time, so as Ainsley says, “It’s not the Charter, it’s the chartering!”  The investment in a day or so’s worth of conversation pays off manyfold in accelerating shared understanding and team performance.
  6. What can we expect to hear from your talk at Scrum Day San Diego?  Simple starter ideas for planning and executing a LiftOff, as well as tips for effective Agile Chartering.  It will include ideas for product owners and managers, product sponsors, scrum masters, team members and anyone intimately involved in the organizational community that produces value.
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