Last December, RTE Paul Hoogstede and Agile coach Annelies van Dijk held a self-selection workshop for DevOps engineers. The idea behind this workshop was that we wanted to empower the engineers to choose their own teams.
The first trigger for this idea was to reorganize the teams. At that moment we had 10 teams with about 90 engineers in ART. We found out that it was too big to handle so we decided to split it. We then created two ART’s which are divided into two customer journeys being I Pay ART and I Use ART.
In preparation, for the workshop, we made sure that the purpose of every team was determined by the product owner. Since we had previous experience with this type of workshop we understood what needs to be communicated to put everyone's mind at ease. Some people were worried about the risk. Paul held meetings with his colleagues on leadership calls. Paul explained on that level the reason why we're doing this and why it is important.
Annelies had talks with product owners because the business would be the highest at risk if this fails. It was important that the product owners and their managers were on board with this and understood why we thought it was the best approach.
We were simultaneously spreading the word around so everyone could have trust in this process while also preparing the company for this change.
About 20-30% of developers are living abroad so the workshop was hybrid for everyone to be able to join. Before the event, we asked all the engineers to get their pictures into the boxes and their job titles on the left side of the image. Furthermore, we asked them to put down their specialties.
What would make this a success?
We would consider the workshop a success when every DevOps engineer has found their place in a team with the purpose to which they could adhere. Also when we identify needed capabilities in the teams when there are gaps.
The approach of the workshop
This self-selection included 13 teams that are a part of 2 ARTs. Typically this would take several rounds before the completion. For every round, each team would have a breakout room to discuss if their composition meets the purpose of their choice. After every round, Paul asked the central question;¨Given the purpose and the characteristics of a team, are we as a team and the I Use & I Pay ARTs, formed as good as it possibly gets?¨
For the first round, each individual would arrange themselves in a team composition according to their preferences and ambitions. Then Paul would ask the central question. In round 2, team members rearranged themselves into a new team composition that matched their preferences. Again the central question was asked. These types of rounds until everyone agreed that the compositions were satisfying.
During these break-out rooms, PO´s, Amigo´s, SA´s, and dedicated scrum masters were not allowed to participate and had to wait in the hang-out until they could take their places. PO´s & dedicated scrum masters would choose their teams however for teams with no scrum master, we asked if there would be an engineer that wanted to fulfill the role of scrum master in their team.
What are the team characteristics?
When creating the teams there were characteristics that each team should have. First, a team would exist of about 7 DevOps engineers. This is excluding the PO and dedicated scrum master. Furthermore, teams should have the right balance in seniority and is able to own development and operations. Lastly, ART has at least 2 teams with a dedicated scrum master.
How´d it go?
It's been more than a month since the new teams have been introduced and it's been going quite well. We asked some participants their opinion on this workshop and how it was being able to select their own team and purpose;
“The workshop was fun. I got to mingle and talk with people who have the same interest and goals as me. Now it's been more than a month that I’ve been in my new team and I could feel how motivated everyone in my team is to our purpose which is a great feeling. I’m feeling quite satisfied!” -Anonymous
“It’s always a great feeling when a team truly gels. When everyone is committed and enthusiastic about a shared goal, and when people can hold each other accountable for a great performance. These are things that happen when you are able to select your own purpose and teammates who have similar goals as you.” -Anonymous