When I joined Confirmit R&D 17 years ago the entire department was seated together. Our product was limited in size and our organization was project-based. Today R&D is product-based and consists of 16 nearly autonomous Scrum-teams spread across Norway, Russia, US, and Canada. To ensure all these teams work toward the same vision based on the same high-level priorities, we arrange a week where we present and coordinate plans for the next six months twice a year . We call it “Team Review”.
Each product team is represented by Product Owner and key team members. Management is represented, which simplifies decision making. In addition people representing other aspects of product development also join, representing for instance architecture, operations, product marketing etc.
The value of this initiative consists of preparations, validations and communication. It forces Product Management to determine the main priorities and the individual teams to make and validate plans internally, and it flushes out dependencies between teams, all on a regular basis. During the week our initial plans are validated in an efficient way because people are sitting physically together. Finally, we end up with plans that are communicated between the teams, to rest of the organization and higher-level externally.
The week starts with a common kickoff session where general market and technology trends are reviewed, and where high-level priorities are outlined. Next, Epics for the upcoming 6 months are presented per Product Team. Finally, Cross Team topics are discussed in a common session, typical topics include common challenges and opportunities within process, technology or product. The topics are collected before and and during the week, and rated so that we can spend most time on the most important topics. Examples of topics in the past include identification of the need for a new product team, making initial plans for building infrastructure components that will be used by many teams, and presentation of technology that potentially could be important to many teams. Between the Team Review weeks we have recurring Skype-meetings to see if we deviate from the plans and to handle deviations. Sounds like a standup-meeting, just at a higher level?
Recently we have seen a need for increased cooperation between the product teams in order to create a more coherent user experience. We have also experienced the need for more focus in order to deliver faster on the most important projects. The Team Review week has been key to address these challenges.