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Patterns
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SWARM: Put to Practice

Swarm Planning is both a daily and a bi-weekly activity at Red Argyle. We need this rigor to keep our customer goals aligned with the internal teams, who are working diligently to achieve them. For Swarm Planning to be successful, you need a few ingredients.

People. The Right People.

Our projects are led by Project Managers and Consultants who are front lines with every customer interaction. These customer stories are brought internally and solutioned with our Configuration and Development Directors. This group of individuals understands what needs to be done and the when, with key customer milestones in mind (think progress demos). 

The Tool

It doesn’t matter what tool you use to organize your work, as long as 1) everyone has access to it 2) it’s easy to change on the fly and 3) your team can easily understand work assigned to them and who to report to when it’s done or if there’s a problem. Even a simple spreadsheet shared with everyone doing the work is a good first step.

Preparation

The people (from the two paragraphs above) need to come to the Swarm Planning prepared. They need to have a pulse on what is the outstanding work, what are the customer milestones that need to be achieved within our sprint, and what needs to be done today to make progress on those milestones.

Running the Meeting

The owner of the meeting facilitates a few key functions. 

1) Address if any new, urgent work has come in. Adding new work into the mix of things midstream could be costly for already committed to goals, but urgency also matters. Decide if the team can and should address it today. It’s ok to say no.

2) Ensure that goals from yesterday have been addressed. Items are marked as closed and if not, complete follow ups to ensure there’s a plan for getting it there.

3) Gather the goals for today across all projects. Try to be agnostic to who will do the work. 

4) Assign people to complete the work and review the number of projects a person is spread across. Minimize this. We get concerned when we see more than two projects per person. Consider if focusing on just one or two today would equate to the work getting done today. This would free up this person as of the next day. 

5) Review and commit to the day’s goals. Everyone needs to be bought in here, before communicating with the rest of the team.

Cadence

The above describes what our team does on a daily basis to achieve our goals. Every other Wednesday we add an additional meeting to review our progress and plan for the next two weeks. All of the above still applies, just our vision is beyond today. We take into consideration milestones that are upcoming in the next sprint, and what might need to carry over from the current sprint. We want to minimize this carryover and that one of the drivers for having this meeting on Wednesday. The two remaining days in the sprint are to ensure we can wrap the work planned for the sprint so that the next sprint can run smoothly.
With the above in place and running daily; we’ve seen our teams become more successful with less context switching across projects and a focus on driving things to done.


To learn more about how we swarm, click here

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