“You don’t want to work for the methodology, you want the methodology to work for you.”
I recently joined Aurora Labs as scrum master and wanted to reflect on my first months at the company. My job involves managing the agile workflow, hosting daily meetings, coaching team members, and removing roadblocks. It’s rewarding work; ensuring the smooth running of feature releases, bug fixes, updates, and more across the Aurora Labs platform.
Before joining the company, I worked as a front-end developer and technical scrum master, splitting my time between the two roles. After two years of this, I wanted to transition to a 100% scrum master role and step outside my comfort zone.
I looked for a growing startup that could benefit from my agile skills but would provide the kind of challenge I was looking for. When you work for a big company, everything is clear, and everything is defined, but I wanted the chance to bring more of myself and my ideas into a business that would give me the freedom to push myself and drive things forward.
Aurora Labs seemed like the perfect fit and I was eager to get started but I knew there would be a challenge in getting up to speed with the automotive industry and a new way of working. The first task was to get to know the business, its processes, and all the technologies it uses. A priority for me was to meet the people, too, as it’s important to me to understand the culture of a business and where I fit in.
Working in a large company has challenges and is a very different environment than working in a startup with a close-knit team. This gave me the kind of freedom I needed to make a real impact in my work.
At Aurora Labs, you have the opportunity to pinpoint an idea or change, followed by a proof of concept. From there you bring it to the relevant people to have a discussion and explain what needs to be done. This means that changes can be made quickly and you can really see how your ideas improve and support the process. This is exactly the kind of environment I wanted to be in.
Another highlight was the buy-in from the Aurora Labs team. The CEO gave me a daily time slot in his calendar to talk about the things I needed in order to succeed. It was clear that it’s really important for him and for the company to be more agile.
Around the time I started, Aurora Labs also began work with external agile coach Boaz Fine to support me and others in the business. This improved how quickly I and fellow scrum master Gil Baruch were able to get up to speed. We worked alongside Fine to brainstorm the next steps, then discuss the right way to ensure smooth changes. This was the agile team that drove the impact on the organization forward.
Making an impact
When I joined Aurora Labs, the company was using the Spotify agile model. It had been working well with a clear focus on scaling agile processes while emphasizing the importance of culture and network. This is just one example of structuring teams and sprints in order to get work done in an efficient way.
It soon became apparent, however, that this wasn’t quite the right model for the company. We wanted something that could adjust to fit the way we worked – we even called it Auroragility.
You don’t want to work for the methodology, you want the methodology to work for you, which is why we made those changes. This included building dashboards, describing the current situation at each point, clarifying the purposes of each meeting, trying to make processes less complicated, and expanding them where needed. For each idea, we tried to understand from the beginning what and how it would benefit the business and the organization. The biggest experiment was the PI (Program Incremental) planning where the whole company met face to face in order to plan the work for the upcoming sprints. This was a great chance to plan ahead while getting to know one another
This helped the whole team to understand the commitment they were making and the tasks they’d be working on to help achieve the agreed-on goals. We were able to talk about the purposes, the risks, and to handle conflicts and blockers across teams. It proved its success that’s why we continued with it. There were also benefits from a cultural perspective, as Aurora Labs works in a hybrid remote model with employees spread across the entire country.
Creating the Auroragility methodology also meant implementing more structure to support employees. This included adding templates on the retrospectives for the team as well as updating templates for sprint reviews and offering training on how to demonstrate the results of something a team had been working on. We also started to do more issue tracking in JIRA to make it more collaborative for all teams. This gives more visibility into what everyone is working on.
Making these changes was a case of understanding where the company was and then looking at the big picture to see what improvements could be made to productivity while giving everyone more visibility into how things were progressing.
Despite being new to the role, I feel I’ve already made an impact on the way the team works at Aurora Labs and I’m eager to continue this forward motion. We want to continue developing the visibility so both managers and developers can see what the situation is. I also want to work on the commitment to each task, so everything that we say will be completed actually is. Then, if there’s the risk of something not being done, we can raise a flag as soon as possible to help us replan. This way we can be more visible with our clients, too.
With a friendly culture that understands the importance of the agile way of working, I’m also keen to keep learning from others in the company. We have a daily where different people update each day. For example, the CEO will share his updates then we might hear from the marketing team, VP R&D, or the HR team â this helps us all stay in touch, even when working remotely.
This means everyone in the business understands what others are working on but it also helps to make the team feel more connected to one another. Everyone has their responsibilities and is able to own them, which is something I really like. There’s a great culture and it feels like we’re all truly supported by one another as well as the management team.
In my time as scrum master, I’ve been able to implement some important changes at Aurora Labs while learning a lot about the industry and what it’s like to work with a startup.
- Learn the company culture – This helps you better understand where you fit in and where you can make an impact.
- Get to know your colleagues – This encourages better collaboration and makes it easier when you need to turn to someone for advice – especially important when working from home!
- Meet the CEO regularly – Understanding the CEO’s goals both for the business and for the organization – this enables better planning, but also reminds you what you’re working toward.
- Get external help – Lean on the skills of an external consultant or coach for expert feedback on the processes you are implementing.
- Make the method work for you – Be agile yourself! Agile methodology should work for you and the business, not the other way around.
I look forward to continuing this work and looking for additional ways to make Aurora Labs more agile, all while stepping up to the challenge provided by a fast-paced startup.