Note 1: This isn’t a post about the benefits of sprints. we make those clear elsewhere (and people really get it too!). It’s about the logistics, or the idea of the logistics, which people seem to find harder.
Note 2: We’ll write a post about selling sprints to senior colleagues in due course (remember: quick, cheap, accurate, exploratory).
Sprints are well suited to all types of organisations and many types of problem, but are only easy to schedule for those who are already, to a greater or lesser extent, working in an agile way.
Many people I speak with ask the question – how can I get a team of people together for a week?
They think it’s likely impossible given their workload, their boss, a busy schedule, “the way we are” or the possibility of “emergencies” to clear a week in everyone’s schedule.
But impossible is an opinion, isn’t it? If you’ve already sold colleagues on the benefits of trying a sprint, here are some ideas about finding a free week and organising your team.
How to find a free week
- Open The Shop’s sprint planner document and make a copy. Fill out what you can.
- Make sure you’re answering a big important question. More about that here.
- Pick a great team of people to work on it. More about that here.
- Work out a reason why each person is important to the sprint. Write it down.
- Open your calendar. For everyone you can, add their calendars, so you can see them overlapped with your own.
- Jump forward a few weeks, a week at a time. About 4-6 weeks from now, you should start to see people’s calendars open up. There’ll be fewer meetings and more of them will be of the “Monthly check-in” type. Welcome to sprint country.
- Pick two weeks that look free for the majority of your chosen participants. Pick one as your first preference.
- The best thing to do is to ask people to join the sprint in person. The alternative is to organise it via email. Either way, here’s a template for the points you want to get across.
In a few weeks, I’ll be [leading/facilitating/running] a five day project (known as a sprint) to [add your challenge here].
I’m putting together a special team for this. I want you to be part of it because [personalised reason why their skills fit the bill]. We’re going to move fast and learn a lot.
I’ve checked the calendars of the all team members and the best week for the project is [insert first preference]. Please mark all five days that week as busy. (If you want, only create events for 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm each day – the rest of the time is yours to do other things).
Let me know if you absolutely cannot clear your calendar that week (e.g. you are away).
Can you also put a similar five day hold in your calendar for the week of [insert second preference] as a backup?
Once everyone has confirmed their availability, I’ll send a calendar invite and more information to everyone in the team. Please don’t cancel or reschedule any planned meetings until you hear from me again.
Your sprint organiser,
- If you emailed them, wait a day. (Let’s just agree that not everyone manages their inbox perfectly).
- Chase anyone who’s not replied or blocked out the time in their calendar.
- Send a calendar invite for the team’s preferred week.
Creating the perfect calendar invitations for a sprint
Get this right and you’ll make your team’s life easier.
Things to know:
- Where are you hosting your sprint? What address, building and room?
- Who’s coming, and their emails (per the above)
- The sprint challenge you’ll be working on
Steps (this is for Google Calendar, others will be similar):
- Create a new event.
- Add a title. Suggested: “Sprint week // [Challenge]”
- Add your start date
- Select 10am-1pm (adjust to your own taste)
- Check the “repeat” box.
- Select “Daily”, ending after “5 occurrences”.
- Add a description and any attachments you wish to share
- Set a notification for “email” and “1 day before”
- If your sprint is on a secret topic (it’s possible), set visibility to “private”
- Add your guests’ by name or email address.
- Uncheck the box allowing them to invite others.
- Save the invite.
- Repeat from step 1, changing step 4 to 2pm-5pm (adjust to your own taste).
A lot of steps, but accurate, time saving ones.
Some optional extras: Bosses, Experts, Show’n’tell and Social
- On Monday morning from 10-11am: If you need to, invite senior colleagues to join you as you kick off the sprint.
- On Monday afternoon: Invite any experts you might want to help to join you.
- On Wednesday: Invite a group of colleagues for a lunchtime show’n’tell on the ideas and progress you’ve made so far.
- On Friday afternoon, from 4-5pm: Invite senior colleagues to join you to discuss your plans for next steps.
- Once you’re done on Friday, unwind and celebrate together. This might be the start of a beautiful working relationship. You should enjoy it.
Further ideas we’ll get to in due course:
- Build a thing that automatically generates template emails to participants for you based on your challenge
- Work out how to automagically create iCalendar (.ics) format files so all you need to do is set parameters for your start date and the times you’ll be working during the day.
- Automate some of the follow up emails once participants have cleared their calendars – homework and preparation, last minute reminders etc.
If you have other tips or ideas that would help you get people involved in sprints, get in touch and I’ll update this post to include them.