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One of the key ceremonies as part of SAFe PI Planning or big room planning is our Scrum of Scrums (SOS) during the team breakout planning sessions. The SOS may occur several times over the team breakouts to ensure that dependencies are getting identified and addressed, risks are getting raised and reviewed and raising any actions that must be addressed by the organization.
This face to face interaction during PI Planning is vital for the Scrum Masters to coordinate and collaborate with other teams, so that their team doesn’t have impediments that would lead to them not being able to make their commitments. So how does the Release Train Engineer (RTE) execute a virtual Scrum of Scrums?
We know that collaboration tools like Zoom are vital for the ability to break out into the virtual room and to share the information that is critical for the collaboration needed. So how do we capture and share that information? Most of it can be done in Jira Align!
First off the SOS requires much more structure in a remote setting. Setting up SOS working agreements, how and when they will happen and where the team should gather virtually is a start. Part of this structure should include the facilitator getting help to run these critical stand ups. Identify a chat monitor to help capture and identify things in your chat channels to ensure effective communication and collaboration. Coordinate with your team of Scrum Masters to help with capturing and documenting the discussion, outcomes and decisions that are made. A tip for the SOS facilitator is to create a Jira Align Checklist that outlines the SOS agenda and where in JA we will go to for the information.
One of your working agreements should be HAVE FUN! These are challenging times and you and your team are working to solve hard problems for your business. A little bit of laughter and engaging everyone on the team is a great start to your SOS. A critical book for any agile organization is the Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. There are some great ideas around getting your team engaged and voices heard through the checkin process. It could be a quick question like “What’s your all time favorite movie?” or “If you were an animal, what animal would you want to be?” This simple exercise is a fun way to start the SOS and get collaboration flowing.
Here at Atlassian we are all fans of Trello and the ability to create boards and capture those ideas on cards through our customized columns. If you have access to Trello then check out the new Jira Align Power Up this as this may be a great option for visibility of ideas. However, did you know that Jira Align has a virtual sticky board through the Jira Align Brainstorming functionality?
Here is an example of how you can create a Scrum of Scrum board and the cards that are put on the board can be color coded to represent SOS discussion topics (yellow), action items (red), things we need to monitor (green) or the things we have closed out (grey). The brainstorming board also has functionality to convert these items to stories, features or epics if needed.
The program board in Jira Align is the key information radiator for our PI Planning event. The RTE and Scrum Masters will continually be reviewing and updating information on the program board. We won’t go into details of all the Program Board functionality in this article. So check out Rich Sparks Building a Program Board during PI Planning article for those details.
The SOS primarily focuses on team dependencies and the timing of those. Jira Align dependencies can be created and viewed for the Program Increment in a few critical places such as the Program Board or the Dependency Grid for each team. You can quickly see the list of dependencies that your team requested of other teams or that other teams requested of you and that your team has to take action on and commit to or reject and counter for further discussion on timing.
A great view and visual for managing dependencies across the ART for the PI is the Wheel Dependency Map. As facilitator the RTE can pull up each team that still has RED items which represents NOT COMMITTED dependencies. Think of these as the strings on the program board between teams where the blue lines represent committed, the green represents done (which will happen after PI Planning) and the red must be addressed and resolved as part of planning. These dependencies are risks to the program for making and meeting their commitments if they are not addressed effectively.
After addressing the brainstorming board and dependencies, the SOS may have specific action items for the PI that can be captured, displayed and tracked. On the Program Room, these Action Items, that are critical to the success of the PI can be displayed in the Actions widget or you can track the full list of these in the Objective Actions Grid for visibility. These action items will drive discussions in the Management Review and Problem Solving as described in Sam Tsubota’s article on Tips for Facilitating a Management Review and Problem Solving Session for a Virtual PI Planning.
As with any of our suggestions for remote PI Planning, have your teams experiment, inspect and adapt to drive collaboration and effectiveness. How are you running your virtual Scrum of Scrums (SOS) and what tools or areas of Jira Align do you find useful? Share your thoughts and ideas in response this article.