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How would you summarise what your R&D team does, in just 30 minutes? And make it engaging (when yours is the fifth presentation of a day long, company induction)? And make it memorable? The answer for us is one (five minute) slide plus a 25 minute “Lean” game.

Every quarter we run a day-long company induction for NewVoiceMedia newbies. As well as getting to meet fellow new starters, this event provides 30 minute windows into different parts of our organisation and service. This post covers our recently revamped R&D segment: how did we reshape it and what does the end result look like?

You have just 5 minutes ...

The centrepiece of our revamped induction was a lean game, which would make the session engaging and memorable, and demonstrate some of the key aspects of Agile and Lean (more on that in a future post though). The problem was that the session first needed some setting of the scene, some kind of overview. We knew the lean game would take up the majority of our 30 minutes, so the introduction section had to be short and focused: one slide, no more than five minutes.

For inspiration, I went to the Agile Manifesto and tried to distil our interpretation of it down to as few words as possible. I came up with this:

Embrace change,

Embrace each other

These five words alone set the scene well. The addition of the following narrative and pictures then completed how we could convey the essence of our approach.

Embracing change

Weekly release cycle

We have a road-map, but, unlike a physical map, you can’t rely on its accuracy of what will be where. It’s a plan, a rough-guide, and we change it regularly (every two weeks, if necessary) to best meet the needs of our clients, the market and our service. Our weekly release train into Live is a big part of this, as described in this earlier post.

Plan Do Check Act - Continuous Improvement

Each of our self-organising feature teams follow a process based on the PDCA cycle at right. One of the key parts of this is the fortnightly retrospective, where the team checks how well the Doing is going and Acts and rePlans accordingly to improve it.

Embracing each otherTeam collaborating at a daily standup

In order to maintain our responsiveness and continue to improve, we place great emphasis on collaboration. Each team (developers, testers, product owner and scrum-master) starts every day by discussing how they can work together to get more stuff Done (the right most column in the picture). The team collaborates in its planning, development, testing and review. Everyone is responsible for delivery and quality.

Team collaborating with other departments

In order to be a successful business, we also emphasise the need to collaborate with teams outside of R&D, such as Operations (the other half of DevOps), Post-Sales, Sales, Billing and Marketing. We also reach out to our clients, to get them involved in what we’re building. The photo here is of a team discussing their fortnightly demo to their current client.

So what’s next?

Summarising our approach in just five words and five minutes seemed like an impossible task, but we did it. Mission accomplished. Whilst this is good news for you, the reader, it was even better news for those on our induction, as it means more time for the next segment, which is where the fun really happens: playing the lean game. That’s for a future post though.

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