The hero of this (user) story is accountability

31 May

A few years ago, I coached an agile video production team. It was a highly collaborative, tight-knit team with super specialised skill sets. The team churned through the work and delivered lots of high-value outcomes for the organisation.

However, what the team and I noticed was that there seemed to be a lack of ownership and accountability when it came to developing user stories. User stories often omitted crucial details and quality considerations, such as:

  • Identifying the director(s) for the shoot
  • Sourcing the correct crew (cameramen, sound, lighting, assistant directors, support, make-up artist, photographer, etc.)
  • Logistics (insurance, car rental, parking spaces, transcription services, etc.)

The team held regular retrospectives, not only at the end of each sprint but also after production events and shoots.

However, the retrospectives involved a lot of blame and finger-pointing when things did not work well, so it was difficult to produce tangible solutions. One idea I had was to assign a ‘hero’ to each story - this was in keeping with the team’s Hollywood theme.

The idea was to have one person on the team serve as a ‘hero’ for a particular story - this person could have been part of the pre-production admin, pre-production, production and post-production teams.

They were not expected to do all the work entailed for a story, but they acted as a ‘guide’ to ensure consistency and alignment around the story for the team. They ensured that the right people collaborated so that stories were good to go.

This work included:

  • Story readiness
  • Execution of the story to meet the “Definition of Done”
  • Identification and readiness of the cast / crew
  • Logistics – arrival shoot times, production gear
  • Administration – survey/forms, live captions providers, live stream service, provider support, network assistance.

Essentially ensuring quality and consistency through delivery and ensuring it met the needs of the product owner, client, and director.

Anyone on the team could opt-in to be a ‘hero’, including graduate students, animators, camera specialists and so on. The ‘hero’ role was a needed role and was shared amongst team members.


Posted by Michael Huynh.

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