Talk: Grow your team with yearly meetings

This talk was presented on 22 June 2011 at Agile Portugal 2011, which was held at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto, in Portugal.

Managing a long-term agile team working on continuous improvements to a product creates specific challenges that are not usually felt in project-based approaches. Under the pressure of daily and monthly work, teams ignore issues and opportunities that can only be acknowledged and tackled on a longer time frame.

Two specific yearly meetings, started almost by accident, have proved themselves by driving long-term improvements of outputs, tools, process, and team spirit.

Yearly strategy meeting

Slides The yearly strategy meeting starts by acknowledging recent important achievements, then collects and prioritizes possible goals that would significantly improve or add to the current outputs and tools. The proposed goals are typically desired output qualities or new outputs that do not translate directly into tasks for a backlog. The meeting ends with the team committing to some of the goals while rejecting or delaying others.

The chosen goals become part of the shared vision that guides the team. Sometimes goals will be explicitly scheduled into sprint tasks, but work on softer goals often starts when the opportunity arises. In the strategy meeting of the following year, however, the team typically realizes that significant progress has occurred in about half of the chosen goals.

Yearly team meeting

While the strategy meeting focuses on tools and outputs, the yearly team meeting focuses on people and process. At the yearly team meeting, team members get together to discuss the personal answers of each member to four questions. The questions acknowledge successful team practices and ask for impediments to personal and group work. During the meeting, the team acknowledges each issue or statement raised, then searches for root causes for what is being said. This group exercise often identifies soft issues affecting the team that were not fully understood by team members. The team discussion that follows usually suggests one or more approaches to handle the issue.

The yearly team meeting recognizes and celebrates the team, strengthening the trust and the sense of belonging in the team. Team members acknowledge successful practices and commit to further improvements. These meetings are instrumental in refining the agile practices to fit the changing needs and skills of the current team members.

What attendees learn

Attendees will learn what makes yearly meetings work at Altitude Software, enabling them to adapt the practice to their own needs. In particular, attendees will learn:

  • How to conduct the meetings.
  • How to avoid situations that may hinder the meetings.
  • Characteristics of the team and the workload that enable the meetings.


Slides: Grow your team with yearly meetings
Slides presented at Agile Portugal 2011.
Conference poster
Official conference poster of Agile Portugal 2011.