As we scaled Agile in a large enterprise one of the issues that we hit was the impact in many peoples diaries from an increase in showcases. Sure showcases are not necessarily for the masses and should not be impacting everyone but thats not how it plays out at scale.
Scaled models invariably are made up of multiple feature based teams rolling up at a program level to a single backlog of features. So in reverse, business units or programs of work operate a single feature backlog that teams pull from to their own backlogs as capacity becomes available. At the top of the tree sits a number of interested parties, BU Manager, Program Manager, Product Owners and various executives all looking to understand how features and teams are progressing.
In one particular situation we have today one business unit has implemented a single demand front door with a single backlog of features being fed work by five different sponsors. The work enters at a light PMO type team and is ‘groomed’ for readiness for one of eight co-located feature teams to pull in once they have the capacity. As they feed work into the business unit the stakeholders can find their features distributed into different teams and would under normal circumstances start receiving invites to multiple showcases. Another issue we are trying to improve is the collaboration and learning shared across feature teams, it is difficult for team members to find time to attend other teams showcases to get learnings and identify opportunities to add value to another team.
One way to resolve this would be to simply have a program or BU level showcase but this would involve more generalised information, only a small portion of which would be valuable to the individual. Additionally teams need the short feedback loop of the showcase for finer grained adaption and agility and would lose this if stakeholders were attending a larger more general meeting. So quality of information would reduce, decision making would become prolonged and more rigid and team and business agility would reduce.
Enter the ‘trade-show showcase”!!
An experiment we are running is to hold a single showcase time slot on the floor. All stakeholders across all features are invited at the one time and we create a more vibrant and dynamic environment with a bit of fun and atmosphere. The trade-show starts at the program wall where attendees are given a brief overview of how work is progressing and how teams are doing in the scaled environment. This level can include big visible charts and indicators of feature progress and common blockers that stakeholders can get involved in resolving. It would also include visibility of which teams are driving which features so attendees can see which teams (aka trade stalls) they are going to visit. At this point there are several ideas about how that may play out, predefined itinerary handed to each, usher style walk around or simple ‘find your own way”.
One the walk around gets underway each team assigns one or two members to man the stall (this can rotate) and provide the feature showcase to relevant stakeholders, allowing the stakeholders to provide the short feedback loop to the teams and have that more intimate discussion on feature delivery. The rest of the team participate in the walk around learning about what other teams are doing well or having issues with, getting new ideas or providing suggestions. It provides an opportunity to build the learning culture and also immerses the stakeholders into the way of working.
Im sure there are many learnings ahead on this idea, not even sure if it will work in the long run, but the experiment is fun and we are getting learnings from it. In the meantime those calendars are that little bit emptier than they otherwise would have been.