Are Business Guilds or Communities of Practice worthwhile?
A journey through meetings with people with different purposes and thoughts, but who share the same interest, passion, or professional field.
Organization of a Product Owners’ chapter business guild
We began 2020 by introducing business guilds between the tribes of the physical shops’ journey. Groups were formed for each chapter: API developers, FrontEnd developers, QA analysts, tech leads, agile masters and product owners.
The meetings were organized as follows:
- Creation of a specific Microsoft Teams’ group for the Product Owners (POs);
- Definition of a recurring, weekly one-hour meeting;
- Participation is optional;
- A tribe lead was elected to mediate the meetings;
- Every month one of the POs must apply to be responsible for organizing the meeting agenda with the topics to be addressed and lead it;
- Creation of a Confluence area to share information, documentation, presentations, etc:
During the first meeting it was already possible to identify the challenges of such encounters:
- Agreeing on the guild’s purpose;
- Knowledge equalization in agile methodologies among people in the community;
- Addressing topics of mutual interest;
- Obtaining high participation rates (number of people who enter the meetings and participation level of those who enter);
The meetings addressed topics such as:
- Backlog management;
- Use of Atlassian tools: JIRA and Confluence;
- Patron x Persona;
- Metrics, KPIs and OKRs;
- Agile roadmap;
- Presentation of each POs’ products;
- Propagation of training and workshops;
- Difficulties in the day-to-day occupation;
- Sharing experiences and lessons learned.
In the month when I took over the guild’s management, I decided to apply some dynamics to provide continuous improvement with a focus on enhancing interest in the meetings and consequently increasing POs’ participation.
At the first meeting, I invited everyone to check-in during the first 5 minutes to get their feelings about the expectations that each had for that day’s meeting:
I like using tools with anonymous posting such as Mentimeter for this type of activity… it works perfectly! Things like “talk about Product Owner/Product Manager career” and “check if I know how to create an OKR” just came out.
In the sequence, we had excellent presentations on two squads’ products, which most were unaware of.
Since OKR was the company’s hot topic, I prepared a Mural board in advance based on Antonio Cesar Polo’s material. I took the time to show and explain an OKR example and then each one had 15 minutes to work on their own, which could be related to their product or to some personal goal.
Check it out!
After finishing the OKRs, I applied the Happiness Door. I am a fan of using it at the end of meetings to measure everyone’s satisfaction to draw up an improvement action plan:
Things that made them happy
- Getting to know other squad’s products;
- Meeting’s facilitation;
- Creative dynamics;
- Explanatory videos;
- OKRs practices;
- High participation rate;
Things to get better
- Timebox respect;
- Be prepared for the meetings.
- With the check-in outcomes I got insights on what to include in next meetings’ agenda and what to do with the OKRs board material;
- The products presented by the squads gave me the vision to solve some problems which hindered my product’s success;
- Through Happiness Door I found that the meeting’s content, approach, and dynamics were very pleasing and that time control should improve.
Answering the question proposed in this article’s title: are business guilds worthwhile? Yes, they are!
The cross-functional knowledge that is exchanged is priceless!
How did I solve the challenges I described?
Agreeing on the chapter’s purpose:
- Check-in sessions to collect everyone’s expectations regarding business guild’s purpose (run it whenever necessary, when you fell lack of focus, for example);
- Retrospective meetings: the intention is to map possible deviations from the agreed purpose and work on business guild’s continuous improvement.
Knowledge equalization in agile methodologies among people in the community:
- Addressing agile project management topics, how to use JIRA for product backlog management and, at last but not least, sharing waterfall to agile transition experiences;
Addressing topics of mutual interest:
- Maintaining a collaborative workspace in which the POs put the issues of interest and voting to choose the next topic;
Obtaining high participation rates (most challenging one):
- Using magic tools to facilitating, like Mentimeter, IdeaBoardz, Mural or Miro;
- Playing funny IT videos that fit the topic;
- Never forgetting that if the Product Owners don’t see VALUE in the business guild, there will be no engagement and therefore no participation.
Some tips for great business guilds
1. Have a meeting’s topics agreed in advance and stick to the agenda to make them more productive;
2. Communicate the agenda for the next meeting in advance so that people can prepare for the topic;
3. Address different topics and ask about desired topics regularly;
4. Promote dynamics that encourage everyone’s participation;
5. Respect timeBox!
Find out more about Business Guilds and other practices at Management 3.0’s website:
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