Back at the beginning of 2018, I found my self being busy and away from my team for some days in a row. That led to a situation where my team didn't really know if I was sick or just in another meeting. A solution needed to be found.
As Team Leads we have different stakeholders, responsibilities, tasks, meetings...
It is no longer only about getting that ticket into the Done column. Tasks like finding ways to improve monitoring, make the CI/CD iteration faster, work on retention, hiring processes, performance reviews, meetings, align with other teams... can take a huge amount of your time.
Team Leads should remain technical. Period.
The Burocrazy™ Sprint relies on the premise that I truly believe that Teams Leads should remain technical.
I would expect any Team Lead to be part of a normal sprint, take a ticket and get it to the Done column.
The problem is that non-technical tasks take a lot of time. They could prevent you from working on that ticket you thought you could finish in the current sprint, just because it looked like a quick win, or it was only 5 story points. At the end, you can't finish it and somebody else from the team needs to pick it up and get it done.
That usually means two things to me.
- The team can work and complete a commitment without you.
- There's something broken in the planification.
The team can work and complete a commitment without you
Time to face it, they don't really need you to achieve the full goal of the Sprint. Of course this is true if you have already done your work as a Team Lead. Then you should be the most disposable member of the whole compound.
More about the Team Lead work in another post.
There's something broken in the planification
You are not having full clarity and transparency on what's going on during your week. At the end you end up committing to a ticket that potentially can't be finished.
Enter The Burocrazy™ Sprint.
How does it work?
The main idea is to have a centralised place where you will have all your current and pending tasks. A place where all of those will be visible to everyone.
Let's rephrase the text above: all your tasks visible to everyone.
One year and some months later I can personally see big advantages and how it has shaped the way me and my team work, making us even more resilient and effective.
Anyone is able to see what your current focus is and the progress you are making. This was especially helpful for my team to get a sense of the work I'm doing and understand more about my absence. At some point, I had a colleague offering help on a specific topic just because she was also interested. I managed to delegate almost 80% and get an incredible outcome, an outcome I would've never gotten by myself.
Also, our PO was able to understand which kind of tasks are generated from some product features and ideas. That helped him to improve his planing.
When things are visible it is really easy to assign those tasks to anyone, leveraging your team and getting a better output.
Groom your successor.
Now it is easy for me to start mentoring and growing my people by delegating some tasks to them. Due to the diversity of my team, I'm still learning how to best leverage each one's skills on non-technical tasks.
Here is an example.
I was asked to generate a report on how we were doing monitoring, after the assignment, I created the task and put it in the Burocrazy™ Sprint. I knew one of our members is crazy about monitoring, alerting, tracking, well... data in general. It was really easy to delegate that task, put it in a normal sprint and after some guidelines expect and amazing output. I was able to focus on other tasks I can't delegate... yet.
This idea requires you to write down the requirements and the expected outcome of the task in a way that anyone in the team can understand. Just like any other ticket. Then it is easy to see a more accurate cost and be able to estimate better or keep track of the effort and the progress.
Taking a look at the whole Burocrazy™ Sprint should help to be able to create a monthly, quarterly or even a full year plan, prioritise and think how and when to start.
Imagine you are new in the company and you enter a new team. By having a Burocrazy™ Sprint you easily see which tasks were pending and how to proceed with them. Once, I found myself being told off by our principal architect because we hadn't prepared a plan on how to migrate some old Perl code. I had been in the team for just over a week. Won't happen again to that team/project, regardless of its members. All is visible to everyone now.
Distributed computing is awesome, distributed databases are powerful, distributed teams are amazing... but not everything can be distributed. Having distributed tasks everywhere, in different places and formats creates chaos and at some point, something is lost or forgotten. By having everything in one central place allows you to easily move things around, prioritise and start working. The feeling of moving non-technical tickets and seeing the progress is just awesome.
To illustrate a bit better the idea, here are the titles of some of my current tasks:
- Find an alternative to Codeclimate Enterprise
- Meet with the Analytics team
- Get 50% reduction in our test suite build time
- Create plan to migrate to React
- Prepare interview with Jane Doe
- Plan team event
- Meet with the Architecture team
- Buy tickets for the ElixirConf
- Prepare performance review for Erika Mustermann
How to start?
Get your favorite ticket managing system, e.g. Jira. Create an empty sprint. Once you have the sprint created is time to fill it up. Note that I said: fill it up. Not to actually start it.
It is time now to get all those TODOs and tasks that you have lying around in your Todoist, Wunderlist, Notes, notebook... and create a new ticket out of each one.
It is important to write those tickets in a way that anyone around you can understand the context, requirements, and outcome.
We don't do Scrum, so it won't work.
OK, fair enough. No Scrum, no Sprint. However, remember the idea is just to group all the tasks in a place. Fortunately, there are other tools we can use. Think of labels, epics, milestones... at the end we just want to make them visible. Time to get creative.
We don't do digital
Just use old plain post-its ;)
Protip: whatever tool you use, make sure you can drag and drop so you can easily change priorities.
Once you have all of those tasks collected, it is time to plan them. For this, you can use different strategies.
Personally I like to avoid delaying and forgetting tasks, therefore, I like to bring one or two of those tasks in our regular sprints, even if their due date is not soon. Every other sprint one of those tasks is delegated to the team.
Yes! It is just a fancy name for having a public place where anyone can see what you are working on, offer transparency, improve planification and start delegating more. Sometimes we just need to name things to actually be aware of their benefits.