Agile Chartering: How to successfully launch an Agile Team

The Project Charter

When I was training for PMP®, our instructor kept on stressing the importance of a Project Charter. A Project Charter is a formal document within the organization that recognizes the existence of the project and defines the authority of the Project Manager to carry out the project, within certain constraints to completion.

Often, in the context of offshore development, projects are initiated when the contracts are handed from the Sales Team or PMO to the Development Team. The Development Team will have little room to organize and launch effectively. The Development Team will have to meet those contractual obligations agreed by the people “upstairs”.

Having a formal project chartering process in your company will help facilitate

  • Alignment : The Project Charter can serve as the focal point throughout the project, it serves as the baseline for scope management. It enables shared understanding.
  • Authorization : empowers the Project Manager and the Project Members to carry out the project to completion; ensures that key stakeholders are aware of the project; secures budget and resources for the project
  • Accountability : it highlights major risks and issues surrounding the project; defines the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders; sets the end date, milestones and the success criteria.

A Project Charter should at least contain,

  • Purpose: Business need to address, why the project exists
  • Project Objectives and Related Success Criteria: Measurable criteria for the success of the project that are visible by external observation
  • Scope/High Level Requirements: Defines what is in and what is out. High-level Features documents the boundaries of the project
  • High Level Risks and Assumptions: Risks are uncertain events that will highly affect project objectives, while assumptions are assumed true for the purposes of planning
  • High Level Constraints: limitations imposed on the project such as business constraints or technical constraints
  • Milestone Schedule: events in the project timeline usually marked by the completion of a deliverable or goal.
  • Budget Summary:  funding of the project in terms of money, material and/or effort
  • Project Organization: Who are the key persons accountable to the project – Project Sponsor, Project Manager, may include the Product Owner and the Scrum Master

To start you off with Project Chartering, here is a simple template <to be provided soon>.

The Agile Chartering

Which came first, the project or the team? Like the chicken or egg analogy, this is highly debatable. But I like to favor the creation and establishment of the team first before the assignment of resources to the projects. In Jim Collins in his book Good to Great emphasizes on getting the “Right People on the Bus” — first who, then what.

The essence of Agile is to have small, flexible and high-performing teams.

Teams undergo stages of group development (based on the Tuckman Ladder) before they become high-performers:

  • Forming: The team meets and learns about the opportunities and challenges, and then agrees on goals and begins to tackle the project or task. The members put on their best faces during this stages.
  • Storming:  The team starts to sort itself out and gain each other’s trust. Individuals will voice out their opinions and may result to conflicts among the members. Normally tension, struggle and sometimes arguments occur as people sort out how they will work together.
  • Norming: Individuals will start tolerating the individual working styles and views of other members. The team becomes self-aware that they need to settle their differences and personality clashes in order to meet the common goal and to stay ahead of the game.
  • Performing (productive stage): The team members perform as a UNIT, they are autonomous. Where value flows with minimal friction among the members. They self-organize to meet the situation at hand and invest in each other’s strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses.
  • Adjourning: Is when the team is dissolved and individual members are transitioned to other team/effort.

Every time there is a change in team composition, the team undergoes the same stage (may be minimal than building the team for the first time).  I recommend that when a team reaches the performing level, instead of disbanding them at the end of the project to join other project team, assign new projects/opportunities to the whole team. This is more cost-effective than creating a new team around the new project or opportunity.

With high performing teams, the organization already laid the ground-works for a successful execution of projects.

What is Agile Chartering?

Better teams create better outcomes. Agile Chartering enables teams to liftoff for
success by co-creating a shared view on purpose, alignment and context.

The Book, Liftoff – Launching Agile Teams & Projects by Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies, talks about launching a team towards success.

Agile chartering gives all stakeholders a voice and the opportunity to co-create a common understanding of the project dynamics, its purpose and context. It
creates co-ownership of the project within the project team and thereby higher commitment to the project goals.

The three main dimensions of Agile Chartering are:

  • Purpose: The team revises the initial purpose statement and works out project vision, mission, and mission tests. In the VISION, when the product is already with the users – how the product will change their world? What does success look like? The Agile Inception Deck is a great technique to get the team in the same Page (Why we are here? what we’re trying to do? How are we going to get there? Why are we building the product? – the drivers).
  • Alignment: The team works out the values and principles of the project and it clearly defines who are in the core team. Alignment connects the purpose and the context. It identifies the values and principles, the working agreements and simple rules (house rules).
  • Context: The team figures out what the boundaries of the group are, how and with whom they will have to interact and does some risk and prospective analysis.

The outcome of an Agile Chartering discussion (workshop) is not a final document. It will always be in a draft state and must be revised on a regular basis by the team, whenever the project or team changes or learns something new.

The Agile Charter is the foundation upon which all of the team’s work, rules, tools, and behaviors are built. Unlike traditional project management, where a charter defines the project scope and success criteria, often pre-determined by senior management, an Agile Team Charter is built and agreed upon by the team exclusively. This will facilitate buy-in from the team members. When team members are able to directly contribute to and influence a project, they will be much more motivated for success.

An Agile Team Charter should contain

  • Vision: Why are we here?
  • Mission: What are we trying to do?
  • Success Criteria: What will success look like? What are visible external factors that can show that we are going in the right direction? What are the learning milestones?
  • Project Team: Who are the people in the CORE team (and their roles) – Scrum Master, Product Owner, Developer
  • Rules of Conduct: What are the rules of conduct? What principles do we live by as a team? What are the working agreements? How will conflicts be resolved?
  • Communication/Other House Rules: What are the events, their specified period, place and attendees? What information will be shared, how, where, when? How will we collaborate?

Below is a sample of a team charter. Proceed to the Download Page to download the Agile Team Project Charter template.

agile-chartering

Since the team charter enables bonding of the team, it is important that the Team Charter be readily available or prominently posted so all team members have immediate access to it – let’s say in your Project Wiki or Landing pages.

Conclusion

For a highly successful project, both Project Charter and the Agile Team Charter are needed. The Project Charter provides authorization, alignment and accountability among stakeholders (internal and external) the project and the Agile Team Charter enables the team to become high performers and take ownership of the project.

One a team is established, instead of disbanding them when the project is completed. Assign new projects or opportunities to them. The basic unit of Agile Development is not the developer, it is the TEAM.

Mabuhay!

– Agile Pinoy

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