Apply to the Confident Handoff workshop with Ryan Singer, November 22-23 (Remote)
Whenever I talk to teams doing Shape Up, I ask them what’s not working. Shaping, pitching, and longer cycles aren’t hard to adopt. But when it comes to the build phase, growing teams sometimes run into challenges:
- Unknowns and questions surface too late in the cycle
- The build teams cram and rush to finish on time
- The intent and purpose of the pitch gets lost along the way
When teams describe these problems, I always ask: "What was your process at handoff? What steps did the team use to interpret the pitch, break down the work, and set a plan of action?"
I ask that because handoff is a critical moment. It’s where the work gets broken down, where the purpose of the pitch is carried over or lost, where technical surprises come to the surface or remain hidden (until it's too late).
Many teams don’t have a standard process for doing handoff. Whether it goes smoothly or not depends entirely on the experience level of the programmer. Senior programmers consider the whole project, break it apart, target the unknowns, and deliver slice by slice. Junior programmers, on the other hand, tend to dive straight into the code, start with whatever looks easiest, and get bitten by unknowns later on. Senior programmers try to mentor the junior ones, but they struggle to explain what they do. It all happens intuitively in their heads.
To solve this, I’ve prototyped and tested a new method for handoff that makes what experienced programmers do in their heads *visible* and *teachable* to others.
Here’s how the method works:
1. After receiving the pitch, the junior programmer is asked to do an exercise on their own. They use a step-by-step template that guides them to define tasks, group them into scopes, and order them into a sequence. They don't do it right the first time, but doing the exercise makes them think, shows their thinking, and prepares them for input from the senior programmer.
2. Then there’s a meeting with a senior programmer. The senior person reviews the junior programmer's breakdown and approach. The template lets them see what the junior programmer is thinking. The senior person makes recommendations about how to approach it differently and the junior person makes changes in real time.
3. At the end of the meeting, both parties are more confident about handing over responsibility. The senior person is confident the junior person sees the whole, has the right starting approach, and will be better prepared to raise problems that arise.
Companies who tested the method reported catching issues in the first day that normally wouldn’t have come up until weeks later in the project. Here’s a quote from a junior programmer who went through the exercise:
"[Before doing this] I understood the pitch, but I couldn’t really speak to what should be worked on first … what goes together … what might we be able to be cut if we’re running out of time. … I haven’t written any code yet, and my feelings have drastically changed about whether I can deliver this well within the timeframe and deliver everything that’s wanted."
In this workshop, you'll learn how to do the handoff exercise, how to teach it to your programmers, and how to structure the handoff meeting to build confidence in your team.
We’ll also look forward and backward from the moment of handoff to understand how to better format pitches, deal with discovered work, and keep tasks and scopes alive as the work changes.
To participate, please use this form to apply. We'll accept applications and send out links to buy tickets by November 1st.
Who's this for?
Senior technical and product people. Those working in Shape Up cycles will get the best results.
Size: < 20 people
Deadline to apply:
October 27, 2021
Tickets made available to qualified applicants:
November 1, 2021
November 22, 23, 2021
Price: $500/person, $900/two people
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How would you describe the work you do in your current role? (You can check more than one)
Technical (Coding, architecture, operations, etc)
Design (UX, interaction design, interface concepts, shaping)
Management (coordination, priority, alignment, who's-working-on-what-when)
Which of these describe your responsibilities in your current org (you can choose more than one)
Found / Exec / C-level
Do any of these describe struggles your team is having?
Projects run longer than they should / Too much cramming at the end
We're hiring more people and I want to give them a better way to work
After we hand off projects to build them, I can't see the status of where they're at
People on the build team lose the intent of the pitch
None of these
Take a moment to think through what happened on some recent projects, from pitching to building to shipping. What hasn't gone as well as it should?
Does your team follow any "Shape Up" practices?
No or I'm not familiar with Shape Up
We use some concepts in our conversations
We're shaping pitches but engineering doesn't work in cycles
We shape pitches, have a betting table, and build in cycles
Anything you'd like to clarify or add about any of the questions above?
What are you hoping to get out of the workshop?
Can you tell me a little about your company? What does it do?
Are you bringing another person to attend with you? (Remotely)
I'm bringing another person
If you're bringing another person, what kind of work do they do and what's their relationship to you?
If your application qualifies, are you willing to attend the workshop on both days, Nov 22 and 23, from 9am to 1pm Central?
I'm not sure yet
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