Taking a Walk in a Producer's Shoes

by Irina Nistor - 26 Apr 2017

When I started working as a Producer, my new team let me know that they feel motivated when they have an 80-20 week: 80% programming and 20% learning. My challenge as a Producer is to help my team be organized well enough to focus on the right priorities, while limiting their daily interruptions. To get up to speed with the Producer role, I asked two of my fellow Producers, Sascha and Sophie, to talk about the methods and practices they use in their teams.

After speaking with both extensively, it turns out that they have similar experiences: Both have been with Zalando for the past four years, both have backgrounds in Quality Assurance, and with the emergence of Radical Agility, both took the opportunity to become Producers.

We sat together and identified some of the topics that are important for our work as Producers. In my experience so far, every Producer has their own style, but what unites them is the agile mindset they study unquenchably either individually, in guilds, or with our internal Agile Coaches.

Sophie’s view on team process

At Zalando, things change rapidly. Five new members joined Sophie’s team recently and this team change directly showed that their way of working together needed to be reviewed. For advice, Sophie met with one of our Agile Coaches who offered her support. She plans to change our way of working by introducing a board that reflects our team workflow and the general setup of her team. She also asked other Producers for further insights into their experiences with introducing a board. She started to write down and visualize the new process with a simple workflow and is now ready to present it to the team.

OKRs

OKRs are Objectives and Key Results and if you want to learn about them, you’d better read Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke. This method helps teams visualize their goals, plans, and also highlights the importance of always keeping these goals in focus. I use a whiteboard to visualize the four Radical Focus quadrants: OKRs, intention of the current sprint, health of the team, and upcoming opportunities or threads. On a weekly basis, my team rates each quadrant and reviews what was achieved in the previous week, followed by what is next in focus.

Retrospectives

The Retrospective is used to collect data about what events went well or badly during the sprint, clustering them, generating insights, and checking what could be done to improve processes or workflow. Retrospectives are at the heart of our continuous improvement culture and I make sure I conduct one at the end of each sprint. I try to diversify the type of moderation techniques that I use and take my inspiration from Retromat.

Scrum of Scrums

A Scrum of Scrums meeting is when all the Producers of our department meet twice a week to align on the progress of our teams. We ensure that all stakeholders (Technical Project Managers, Producers, and other teams) are informed about their tasks and our team’s progress, in order to run our projects smoothly and efficiently. We also use this opportunity to keep track of the progress of other projects which are important for each team.

Friday Demos in Sascha’s team

On Friday we conduct Friday Demos, when we watch with admiration the progress our engineers have made throughout the week. If there are no new features to show, we use the time to share knowledge or skills we’ve picked up along the way. This meeting is not open to all, but only to the delivery team, our Team Lead, and our Product Specialist. You could also think of our Friday Demo as a review meeting, where we receive feedback from our stakeholders and check if we match their requirements. Last, but not least, we open our Kudo Box and read aloud the submitted Kudo Cards before handing them over to the respective team member. We have had the Kudo Box system in place for approximately six months and we’re really happy with how it has fostered a culture of feedback and recognition.

The Producer Guild

The Producer Guild is an internal group that meets every two weeks to discuss how we can evolve the Producer role further. We come up with ideas to share knowledge we have gained and evolve overall best practices for Producers throughout the Tech department. As an example, we have something called the Session Market, where Producers offer guest seats in their meetings or workshops to allow fellow Producers to find shadowing partners over the course of a few days.

Want more? Get in touch!

We hope the above information has given you a deeper insight into what Producers across our department do for their teams and the overall organization of services at Zalando. If you are curious and want to know more, check out our LinkedIn Group or follow us on Twitter: @IarinaIrina and @WittigSascha.

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