Luis Goncalves
Last updated on | Agile Coaching/Team Coaching

How To Have a Team Kick Off Meeting That Will Skyrocket Your Results

by Marijn van der Zee
Team Kick Off Meeting

HOW TO HAVE AN AWESOME TEAM KICK OFF MEETING

In this post, I’d like to share the team kick off meeting I did with my team earlier this year. The team had self-assembled about two months earlier. The team felt they could be a great team, but at the same time, they experienced difficulties, which they found hard to overcome on their own. They were considering adopting Scrum, and the team asked me to help them as a Scrum Master.

The team already participated in a two-week, multi-team development cycle, had adopted some Scrum practices and participated in the multi-team planning and review sessions.

Every two weeks, they had time allocated for retrospection. We used this assigned time to perform the team kick off meeting, or re-start if you will. The goal of this session was two-fold: re-start the team and make an informed decision about the work process and Scrum in particular.

The first ten minutes were spent collecting all team members and moving aside the table and chairs that were in the conference room. This forced us to adapt the plan before the session even got started, but it also set a positive collaborative atmosphere. Plus one for moving heavy things around a room to start a team session.

The Session Plan

The goal of this meeting is to lay a foundation for us to work as a team and to explore if we want to adapt to Scrum. This meeting has a 90-minute timebox.

Share the outline of the plan with the team and ask for permission to facilitate the session.

(00-15) Who are we?

Print out the LinkedIn resumes of your team members and place them on a table, or put them on a wall. Hand out post-its and pens to each team member. Together, take a quick glance at the resumes, but don’t do any actual reading. Then ask the team: “These are your professional profiles. Now I would like to ask all of you to share something with the team that isn’t on your resume. While you share this, the other team members will listen and draw an avatar for you, based on what they hear.” Give each team member a 1 to 2-minute timebox to share. Collect the avatars on the team member’s printed resume.

(15-25) Why are we here?

Give the team an empty wall or flip chart and pens and post-its. Ask the team to show you and each other why we are here and why we are here together. Tell the team we’ll use these insights later in the session to form our team values and goals.

(25-55) What is Scrum?

Place a flip on the wall and ask the team to collect all things they associate with Scrum; use a 5 to 10-minute timebox for this. You can ask the team to use silent writing for this.

In a second timebox, ask the team to split the items on the chart into two columns: one column for the things that are Scrum, as described by the Scrum Guide and the second column for items that are not. Again use a 5 to 10-minute timebox for this. These first two exercises, it is OK if the team doesn’t get the terminology right or puts items in the wrong columns – it’s the thinking, discussion and creation of a shared view on Scrum that counts.

The third exercise presents a pre-drawn flip “This is Scrum”; in this exercise ask the team to come up with the five events, three artefacts and three roles that are tied together by the rules in the Scrum Guide. In this part, do make an effort to get the terminology right. When you’ve got all 11 post-its, ask the team to place them on the sprint timeline.

(55-65) Our team

Present an empty team charter flip and ask each team member who wants to be on the team to pick their favourite avatar from their resume and place it in the team box.

Ask the team to distill a clear team goal from the insights they presented in the “why we are here” exercise. Use a 5-minute timebox for this.

Given this team goal, this team composition and the reasons why we are together, ask the team what they feel their core values are; what do we as a team stand for, or want to stand for? Ask the team to put these in the team box. Again use a 5-minute timebox for this.

(65-75) Working agreements

Ask the team whether they, based on what they now know about themselves and Scrum, want to adapt to Scrum. If so, add this to the working agreements on the team flip.

Ask the team if there are any other working agreements they would like to add.

(75-85) The ultimate team

Ask the team to imagine themselves six months from now. They have become the ultimate super team and are firing on all cylinders. They are executing a Sprint. What do they see/smell/hear/feel/do?

First timebox: silently write the items down and place them on a flip.

Second timebox: let each team member read out one of the post-its and say why that to him or her is such a great thing.

(85-90) Team evaluation using the team formation checklist

Place the team formation checklist next on the team flip. Tell the team that in these last five minutes, we will evaluate our team based on this formation checklist.

Point out a sad, concerned wall and a happy wall. For each item on your team formation checklist, ask the team to show where they feel they stand on this item. At the same time, each member does this individually, by positioning themselves somewhere between the sad and happy wall. This is a very quick way to show each other where everybody stands. Capture the constellation on the checklist. Try to end with a fun, positive item.

Some observations

The “Who are we exercise” was fun to do and produced some great artwork. The ones chosen can be seen on the team charter.

The Why are we here exercise” raised some eyebrows. “Do you mean why we are here in this room?” (yeah, for instance), “Do you mean like, or team goal?” (yeah, sure put it on the wall), “I like to code, that’s why I’m here” (ok, put it on the wall). Once the team got going, they produced a flip chart full of reasons.

The What is Scrum? exercise led to the good discussion within the team. The goal of the first two exercises was to start thinking about Scrum, to reconsider the team’s current view on what Scrum is exactly and to create a shared baseline on what the team thinks Scum is. The goal was not to “get it right”. The team was active in the first two exercises and attentive in the last. We did take a bit more time for this to allow for some additional Q&A about Scrum.

To make up for some time, I decided to combine the “Our Team” and “Working Agreements”. The team would like to experiment with Scrum and already had some working agreements in place that we could simply transfer to the team charter. The team goal and our core values were distilled and put on the team charter quickly.

We skipped the Ultimate Team exercise due to time constraints.

For the closing constellation exercise, I placed the team charter near the exit door and deemed that wall the happy wall. The team found each other closely together near the exit door after the last check list item “I’m motivated to work on this team!”

Did you find useful aspects in this session? What would you use and what would you drop? Please let me know!

Attributions

The exercises I used in this session are modified versions of exercises and techniques I found and have used in other team sessions and retrospectives. It is hard for me to attribute each exercise exactly, but sources I regularly use for inspiration are Retromat, Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives and the KEYS Team Building Toolkit. At a recent Product Owner course I attended (facilitated by Gunther Verheyen), we did the “What is Scrum” exercise almost identically to the exercise described in this session plan.

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Marijn van der Zee

About Marijn van der Zee

https://nl.linkedin.com/in/marijnvanderzee

I love to guide software teams on their journey to deliver valuable software and becoming a great team. I enjoy working with the team, but as important is helping the organization to create an environment where teams can shine.I am a Scrum Master/Agile Coach, agile developer, pragmatic student, team player and coach and have been active in the field of software development for well over ten years.

Comments

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  1. Thanx for a great post. I will try to do suitable parts in our next retro. I am curious about the last part though, what is the team formation checklist? How can we evaluate towards it?

    1. Thank you Jesper. The team formation checklist is simple form I created to help the team evaluate their team composition. You can see part of it on the lower right of the last photo. It consists of 5 scale questions on how the team feels about their cross functionality, external dependencies, their goal, their team size and their motivation. I usually ask the team if they want to add something to the checklist too.

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