Trusting our Guts: Using Confidence Assessments to Drive Delivery

location_city Washington schedule Sep 23rd 02:00 - 02:45 PM place Ballroom B people 9 Interested

Do you have a team that is struggling to complete sprints? Are you having trouble achieving multi-sprint goals? Or do you have a group of teams that aren't all pulling in the same direction? In this talk, I’ll share variations on a technique I have developed to help address each and every one of these problems.

Though the specifics vary by application, the core technique has two steps: ask individuals how confident they are that their larger team/group will hit its overall target, then use that gut confidence assessment to drive meaningful conversation. Because it is so lightweight and takes in so many perspectives, it surfaces problems earlier and over a wider range than any other technique I’ve encountered. In addition, by putting focus on what the group is trying to achieve together, it often drives an increase in true teamwork. Through presentation and interactive demonstrations, I’ll show how to use these confidence assessments to help Scrum teams hit their sprint goals; to help individuals or teams hit longer-term objectives; and to help groups of teams work more cohesively in achieving shared targets.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

  1. Demonstration: How We Talk About Progress
    • All participants will join in doing simple tasks within a time box, with pauses to assess progress in different ways.
    • Group discussion: compare/contrast these different ways.
  2. Demonstration: How We Interpret Progress
    • Participants will try to glean status from progress assessments written in different ways (e.g., percent done, verbose status updates, confidence assessments, single-focus assessments).
    • Group discussion: compare/contrast the value of each variation to stakeholders.
  3. Case Study/How To: The Daily Question
    • Reminder from the Scrum Guide: Daily Scrum is a "key inspect and adapt meeting"
    • Discussion: What are we inspecting and what are we adapting?
    • Instruction on the technique: The Daily Question, and how to use it to drive adaptation discussions.
    • Helps solve this problem: teams struggling to complete sprints
    • Additional Benefit: drives increase in true teamwork (e.g., helping outside of job description, rallying at the end of the sprint to pull things together)
    • The core mechanic and why it works:
      • light weight makes it feasible to use frequently (and early!)
      • holistic question casts a wide net
      • many perspectives increases chance of seeing problems
  4. Demonstration: Picking the Right Question
    • I’ll ask for 5-6 volunteers to come to the front of the room.
    • They will play a team (I will give them scenario information).
    • I will ask them questions about progress in their team's work, and ask the remaining audience what they glean from the responses.
    • I will carefully vary the language of the questions (a) show the natural tendency to focus on a subset of the whole; and (b) show how to tweak the questions to encourage a more holistic focus, thereby yielding more valuable responses as well as fostering a sense of unity.
  5. Case Study/How To: Confidence Meter
    • Instruction on the technique: Confidence Meter
    • How our company has used this technique in multi-team coordination huddles to drive meaningful cross-team teamwork.
    • Helps solve this problem: group of teams that aren't all pulling in the same direction
    • Additional Benefit: makes people feel like one big team, not a bunch of siloed teams focused only on their own piece of the puzzle
    • Sidebar: "xTeam Meeting" a variation aimed at helping teams coordinate efforts on very specific subsets of overall deliverables.
  6. Case Study/How To: Up Periscope
    • Instruction on the technique: Up Periscope
    • How our company has used this technique to help single teams (a) navigate toward multi-sprint goals; (b) stay connected to those goals on a day-to-day basis; and (c) stay aligned across teams and the organization at large, all without sacrificing agility.
    • Helps solve this problem: trouble achieving multi-sprint/longer-term goals
  7. Wrap-Up
    • Reminder of techniques learned.
    • Reinforcement of key underlying concepts, so people can adapt techniques as necessary.
    • Q&A

Learning Outcome

Participants will leave with variations on a concrete, lightweight, and easy-to-implement technique for helping their teams and organization navigate toward success. They will also leave with an understanding of the fundamental concepts underpinning this technique, allowing them to adapt it to their own needs. The specific applications are:

  • Assessing team confidence every day to guide teams toward successful sprints.
  • Assessing team confidence to stay connected to medium-term (multi-sprint) goals and share progress in a lightweight way.
  • Assessing multi-team confidence periodically to guide groups toward shared, longer-term goals (e.g., project milestones, major releases, etc.).
  • Assessing cross-team confidence to guide joint efforts on particular subsets of deliverables (especially good for technical coordination).

Target Audience

Agile Coaches, ScrumMasters, Agile team members, Project/Program Managers

Prerequisites for Attendees

No prerequisites.

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