Help Development Teams advance their technical practices with Ecocycle Planning
Scrum doesn’t work if Development Teams don’t have access to the technical practices, skills, and technologies they need to deliver high-quality software as often as possible. Without a developer culture, delivering a Done increment every Sprint will be very difficult indeed. In this post, we share a string of Liberating Structures to make progress on this.
How can a Scrum Master help?
Scrum Masters can create transparency around where the Development Team stands in terms of skills, practices, and techniques. And based on that, the Development Team can decide what to invest in and where help is needed.
The Liberating Structure Ecocycle Planning is an excellent approach to structure the conversation in such a way that every member of the team has equal input. It is a part of a growing repertoire of 33 Liberating Structures, collected, invented and curated by Keith McCandless & Henri Lipmanowicz with a large community of practitioners.
How to facilitate Ecocycle Planning (60–90 mins)
Prepare by creating a large Ecocycle on the floor or on a wall. You can use this PDF or draw your own. To allow people to create the individual copy of the Ecocycle — which we’ll be doing at one point — you can either print the PDF on a smaller size or invite people to draw their own. Make sure you have sufficient stickies, markers, and space for people to move around without obstructions (e.g. avoid meeting tables);
- Use Impromptu Networking to get the thinking started. Invite everyone to pair up with someone else and take 4 minutes (2 min each) to respond to the invitation “What is important about delivering a ‘Done’-increment every Sprint?”. Repeat three times in changing pairs, while encouraging people to notice patterns in their responses. Briefly draw out some patterns (4 min);
- Invite members of your team to silently write down technical practices, skills and technologies that they feel the team is using or should be using (4 min). Encourage them to take a broad view. Refine in pairs (4 min), then with the entire team into one numbered list (15 min). Refine and break-down as needed, but don’t overthink it. We often aim for between 10 and 30 items. Use color coding for different categories (e.g. ‘Skills’, ‘Practices’, ‘Technologies’) if that’s helpful;
- Explain the metaphor that the Ecocycle is based on (see this post);
- Invite members to silently distribute the items from the list across a personal copy of the Ecocycle, based on where they think the item is for the team (5 min). Each member distributes all items by writing down the numbers on the Ecocycle. When everyone is done, invite everyone to write down the numbers on the large Ecocycle you have on the floor or the wall (10 min);
- First individually (1 min), then in pairs (2 min) and finally in the whole team (6 min), ask: “What do you notice about the distribution of the items across the Ecocycle? Where are in we in agreement? Where not?”. You can also use Impromptu Networking for this;
- First individually (1 min), then in pairs (2 min) and finally in the whole team (6 min), ask: “What do we need to creatively destroy or stop doing to advance as a team? What do we need to invest in?”. Do a second round with the question: “What is a first step to move something from either the Rigidity or the Poverty Trap forward?”. Collect the next steps on a flip;
- Invite members to write down one 15% Solution they can personally commit to for moving one item across the Ecocycle; a next step they can take themselves without needing resources or approval from others (4 min). Share and refine in pairs (4 min). Collect them somewhere (10 min);
How can I do this with remote teams?
We’ve found that this format can be used with remote teams as well. You will need a platform that allows break-out rooms, such as Zoom, for descaling the interactions. You can use a shared presentation in Google Drive (or another platform that allows people to simultaneously edit an Ecocycle) to collect responses on an Ecocycle.
The string of Liberating Structures in this post is an excellent way to create transparency around where the Development Team stands in their ability to deliver a “Done” increment every Sprint. The resulting Ecocycle can be kept around in the team room and refined periodically to re-orient and strategize on whats next.
We would love to learn from your experience using this Retrospective format. Give it a try, and feel free to share the results!