Open Space Agility: Executive Action Team

Here is an idea that you can use immediately.

Almost always, you have a group of people that you need or want to adapt Scrum or Agile.

Open Space Agility will help you get them changed faster and better than any other method I know of.

What is it?

OSA is a set of ideas about inviting the group (maybe 30 people, maybe 500 people) to participate in making the change happen.

In my classes I always talk of 2 key ideas.  Executive Action Team and doing Open Space Events.

Executive Action Team.

These two ideas are independent but related.

Several of the well-known agile gurus recommend this, I know. And so do I.  Jeff Sutherland calls it the Executive Action Team.  I used to call it a Management Scrum Team.

There are several reasons to do it.

What is it?

The idea is to take the top 7 executives or managers in your area, and form a Scrum team.  Five Implementers, one Product Owner, 1 ScrumMaster.

There is a question about how dedicated or allocated they are to this team.  At least 50%, but 80-100% would be better.

Get them started (training, coaching, etc.).

In the first sprint planning meeting, the Team promises 8 (or more) stories of work.  All stories are about the same size.

Problem is, they have never done this before.

They work for one sprint.  At the end of the sprint, they must demo the stories in front of the whole group (department, division, company).

Almost always the demo is ugly.  The stories are not done-done.  On some, they have made very little progress.

There is laughter in the crowd.  These are typically the kind of people who are not used to being laughed at.

Two results

  1. The Top Dog (the top manager or maybe the CEO) realizes one key thing.  They are NOT a team.  He (or she) has not instilled a culture of being a team (although they might be able to recite some platitudes about being a team).  The TD decides to use Scrum to hopefully form them into a real Team.  A team with one purpose or goal (group success of some sort), and a team of people who HELP each other.  (Often they mainly are competitive now.)
  2. The Team resolves to fix some things so that what they promise in the sprint planning meeting is reasonable and that what they deliver looks a LOT better in the demo.

Everyone can see that these two results will be very helpful.

The larger goal, for us at least, is that over 3 months (about 6 sprints) this group learns in action what Scrum is.

And the group that they lead comes to respect that they know Scrum.  Not just the words, but how tough, how fun, how rewarding Scrum can be.

It is much better if the executives or managers really understand Scrum.

There is more to the Executive Action Team than this, but you start to get some of the key ideas.


For more on Open Space Agility see The Open Space Agility Handbook by Dan Mezick and others.  A book, easily found on Barnes & Noble.


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