For an Agile Coach the objective of the Assessment week is to determine the team’s present alignment to Agile values, principles and practices. How much the team currently knows and what they need to know in order to successfully transform to Agile. He pays special attention to capture the following:
- Everyday activities of the team members and departments.
- What tools are employed to support these activities.
- What processes are followed to run these activities.
- Dependency on other teams and departments.
- Collaboration and co-ordination among the team members.
- Infrastructure that support these activities.
- What are the outcomes of these activities per iteration.
- Challenges of specific roles and practices.
It is imperative to stay objective while observing these activities, and to not fall victim to the tempt of quickly reaching conclusions or recommending solutions. The recommendations are required yet must come towards the finish of the assessment when complete data is accessible.
The Agile Coach gains access to such insights by interviewing the members of the team. The interviews does not need to be conducted with each and every individual of the team but only with people who represent their roles. Below is a suggestion of how to conduct these interviews.
Preparing for the interviews
Get in touch with the Project Manager of the team, at least two days in advance. Ask him information about the various roles being played within the team. The Project Manager is required to inform the team members about these interviews and suggest them to put around 30 min. to an hour aside in their schedule. There is no need to book a meeting room and is advisable to conduct the interviews at the participant’s cubicle. Set the interview time beforehand to avoid any last minute surprises. Make a list of the topics you want to discuss during the meeting based upon the available information about the team and it’s workings.
Starting the Interview
Establish a safe environment for the individual by stating that the topics discussed in the interview will remain confidential. Introduce yourself to the interviewee. Let the person know about interview’s objective and it’s benefits. Let the interviewee know that the interview is in no way any kind of judgement process or performance appraisal to enable him to answer the question objectively. Express your regards for accepting your invitation for the interview. Strike the right balance between formal and in-formal to make the interviewee feel comfortable yet stay on track.
Jot down notes about important points discussed during the interview in a journal. These notes can be shared with the interviewee if interested. Re-iterate the importance of clarity and un-biased discussion. Start with writing the current date, name and role of the person in the team.
Questions to ask
Briefly inquire about the interviewee’s background by asking questions about industry experience, time spent with the current team and duties of the current role. Ask question to help them describe their day-today activities. This is supposed to yield a lot of information about what you need. Don’t forget to ask to explain a particular topic in detail if required. For example you can ask them to use their computer and walk you through a process or approach. Keep an eye on the watch though. delving into too much detail may be unnecessary at this point. Make sure to get as much insight as possible on most of the topics mentioned above. Finish the interview by asking question about the challenges faced during the project. This will help you know more about the current situation which is difficult to gather by external observation.
After you are done conducting few interviews try to validate the stress points that appeared most frequently by looking at them through the perspective of other interviewees. Looking at the same thing from different perspectives often is more revealing than sticking to a single point of view.
Documenting the Interview.
Now comes the hard part. The drawings that you made on your journal during the interviews might not make much sense to people other than you. So it’s time to clean up the notes. You will notice that your hard work will not go un-rewarded as suddenly your own notes will start to make more sense to you. Also it will help to record the notes digitally to enable you to search through your observations properly. You can then start to connect different pieces of information here and there into one single problem or impediment that needs to be resolved. Different patterns will emerge which will later help you to pin point challenges and prepare recommendations for solutions.