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Lessons Learned from Agile Transformations: Part 12

Twelfth in a Fifteen Part Series

· Project Management,SDLC,Agile,Scrum,Chad Greenslade

By Chad Greenslade

I have often been asked about my lessons learned in delivering Agile transformations. Below is the twelfth in a fifteen part series examining my lessons learned while instituting Agile concepts & practices. I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to Agile nirvana.

Lesson 12: Hold a Kick-Off Meeting

Every project begins with a kick-off meeting. Agile projects are no different. It is a chance to pull every team member into a meeting and outline the project’s execution parameters. Do not discount the importance of having everyone present. Find a time that works for everyone and schedule enough time for attendees to ask questions. You and your sponsor will be speaking a majority of the time, but your attendees will have questions that will invariably drive questions from other attendees. One hour is typically the maximum amount of time you’ll want to use for a kick-off meeting. Thirty minutes may not be long enough. Try to get everyone in the same room if possible, and allow enough time for attendees to process the information and learn from the experience. Be positive about the outcome. State your expectation of success.

At a minimum, the kick-off meeting must address who, what, when, where, and why. All attendees must leave the meeting with a firm understanding of this information. The delivery of this information will have the most impact if it is delivered by your sponsor. His or her clout in the organization will strengthen the message and demonstrate to participants that senior management is firmly behind their effort. Whether it is at the kick-off meeting or at some other point in the project, the sponsor must demonstrate his or her commitment to the initiative and its methods to mitigate potential team member subversion later in the project.

When drafting the agenda for your kick-off meeting, be sure to include the following:

  • Who: Often times you’ll see this information covered in the form of introductions.  Allow each team member to introduce themselves, discuss their background, and explain why they were chosen for the project.  These are the people that will make it happen, so don’t shortcut this part of the meeting.  Allow everyone to learn from everyone.
  • What: You’ll definitely want your sponsor to cover this part of the kick-off meeting.  Your sponsor should articulate exactly what the project is meant to accomplish, as well as any risks and / or issues they see the team encountering. 
  • When: Communicate the estimated project timeline to the team.  You’ll want to use the best possible projection for an end date.  If there is a deadline to be met, that must be communicated as well.
  • How: Next, you’ll want to cover how the Agile framework will be used to deliver the project.  Your team will have been trained in Agile concepts so nothing should be new to them.  You’ll want to emphasize how this project will use a fairly “by-the-book” implementation of Agile and explain any deviations or tailoring expected.  No one should leave concerned about the manner in which Agile will be used.  If someone has a concern, be sure to let them voice it for the entire team to hear and discuss it as a group.
  • Where: An increasing amount of software development is being completed by remote resources, making it impossible for team members to be co-located.  If co-location is possible, you’ll want to tell team members where they’ll be sitting on a day-to-day basis.  You’ll want to cover where the Agile ceremonies will be held and any collaboration tools team members are expected to use for virtual presence.
  • Why: It’s a good idea to have your sponsor close the kick-off meeting with why company leadership has chosen to try agile and selected this project to pilot test.  The sponsor must ask every team member for their support and make himself available for questions or concerns.

Completion of the kick-off meeting using the outline above will ensure you and your team are well positioned for success.