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Topics: Scheduling, Scrum
Improve project management processes of team between Australia - Europe
Hello team,

I'm working as a project manager for a tech company.

The current structure of the team is the following:
- Product team based in Australia
- Engineering team based in Europe (Poland)
- Project Manager based in Poland as well

Currently we have the following process:
Every biweekly Monday morning Poland time we have a pre-planning session where the product team presents the tasks that the engineering team will work in the upcoming sprint. The engineering has one day to estimate the time and then on Wednesday morning Poland time we have a planning session to add everything on the sprint and we kick off the sprint which runs for 2 weeks.

Following that, we have the following problems:
1. The team in Australia works very late and has to attend to these meetings at 9:00PM
2. There is not enough time for questions/follow ups in the planning
3. We discover during the sprint tasks with requirements missing as everything happens fast and not correctly organized
4. Tasks spill to the next sprint due to incorrect estimates of tasks

What would be your suggestion to improve/change the process?

Thanks in advance
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It sounds like the pre-planning session isn't working well as currently structured. Based on my experiences and understanding of agile practices, pre-planning should be a collaboration between the product and engineering teams and involve discussion about the scope items, which would result in a groomed story that has sufficiently documented requirements, the whole team understands the acceptance criteria/definition of done, and the story has been estimated based on the conversations that happened during pre-planning/backlog grooming.

I found this site with 6 tips (including for breaking down sessions to 30-45 minute increments) that I think will help:
This is the problem in sprint-based approaches with waiting till the last minute to do planning for an upcoming sprint. A good practice is "lookahead planning/modeling" which is an ongoing activity the team does to gather info about high priority, near term work items. Of course, this does require access to the key stakeholders (e.g. product team members) other than just during planned events...

Some thoughts from when my PM and engineering team was on the other side of the world from the build team:

- Move your meeting time so that it is closer to business hours for both parties. If it's a 10 hour time difference, one team may come in a bit early for the meeting and the other stays late. If there are meetings well outside business hours for one team, such as to support a manufacturing team, someone needs to be dedicated to support who is knowledgeable enough to take notes and communicate back to their home organization.

- If the meeting cannot address all the detailed level questions, those should be logged and scheduled as working level meetings to tackle individual problems. When running meetings, I spend a lot of focus determining what needs to be discussed before the time runs out, and what needs to be tabled for further discussion.

- If you rush your planning too much, your plan will fail. Be realistic about how much time it takes to evaluate your requirements, and needs of your next sprint. We sometimes complain, "There is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always time to fix it later." Don't fall into that trap.

Some of that advice is from doing root cause analysis corrective action of previous issues, so do your own RCCA to determine where your process is broken, define specific improvement opportunities, and work those in sprints too.

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