Engineering August 5, 2022

An Epic Refinement – The force awakens

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a development team with the mission to liberate the true value of content in the entertainment industry by empowering artists and composers with solutions that optimized the monetization of their assets. The battle against the complexity of the music industry was fierce. The team was constantly getting hit through the refinement process of its development initiatives.

The refinement meeting seemed like a standardized procedure. But the team unconsciously followed many antipatterns. The meeting had become a requirements announcement event instead of a working session. This caused an increased knowledge gap, lack of challenge, and a reduction in ownership. The meeting was not tailored to the purpose it was supposed to serve. This resulted in unidimensional focus (either business or tech), lack of participation, demotivation, and low morale

To address the aforementioned issues, the team decided to strike back at these tendencies. They created a new epic refinement structure by:

  1. Introduced the Epic Ambassadors meeting
  2. Split the refinement meeting into 3 time-boxed parts with a specific agenda and outcome
  3. Leveraged the offline asynchronous technical analysis of a story by self opted-in team members

Epic ambassadors

Target

The objective of this meeting, which is inspired by the 3 amigos perspective check, is to reduce feelings of uncertainty and disconnection towards an unknown work item and save the team’s time later, by proactively answering high-level questions and doing a feasibility check.

What

This is a pre-refinement slot in which participants opt-in to act as ambassadors of the epic for the rest of the team. Ambassadors are the point of reference when the high-level tech conversation of the epic’s refinement comes to technical requirements or spontaneous peer questions. The ambassadors will assist the team to focus on the business-oriented discussion by instantly answering any technical question or addressing the team’s uncertainty.

High Council Chamber

Target

The objective of this part is to present a new work item to the team, cater to the value-based debate, and enhance active participation in later stages of the refinement.

What

During this phase, the entire team faces a new work item. It is the mechanism that ensures the business-oriented challenge of the proposed solution’s value. At last, the team members are called to voluntarily formulate pairs to further analyze the assigned stories asynchronously and offline.

Jedi Apprenticeship

Target

The objective of this activity is to increase ownership and improve the quality of work by providing an already ready-to-be-reviewed proposed solution.

What

Now the team, in pairs, dives into the details of a ticket without the anti-patterns of large group discussions, like peer/time pressure, authority, and anchoring bias. The offline and asynchronous activity improves the quality of the proposed solution and its value. This allows the team to design a high-level tech approach, identify dependencies, define spikes on unknown items and proactively resolve possible roadblocks in the process.

The mirror war

Target

The objective of this part of the journey is to validate the quality of the refinement outcome while it reduces the knowledge gap on new items and increases participation in the process.

What

During this slot, the team splits into parallel working groups. Each group consists of a member that defined the initial solution during the Jedi apprenticeship and one reviewer, who is not a member of the initial design pair. The outcome of this ritual is a fully completed user story, for which the team can confidently estimate effort.

The rise of an epic

Target

The objective of this part is to increase awareness across the team and validate that the working items have all the necessary information to be developed.

What

During this slot, the working groups are merged to share the outcome of the process, validate each item’s estimation and declare as “Ready for Development” the working items.

Future endeavors

Every era brings its challenges, but the one thing that never changes is people. As in the refinement process, the team’s traits will be further analyzed to design new working habits in other dimensions that apply to human-centered needs and principles. Otherwise, people will ignore mechanisms that ignore people.

“Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. This is just the beginning!”

Yoda

Dimitris Tagkalos

Software Engineer @ ORFIUM

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dtagkalos/ https://github.com/dtagkalos93

Yiannis Mavraganis

Director of Organizational Effectiveness @ ORFIUM

Alexandros Synadinos

Product Manager