Skill Sprints are a one week, open source method for technology adoption within tech teams.
Out with training and consultants. In with knowledge sharing and ownership.
A Skill Sprint is a working technique which allows an external expert to build new knowledge in a Dev team. The Skill Sprint 'Captain' is well versed on the tech that is intended to be implemented. The team is two engineers seconded from the Dev team that needs the new technology. In order to get them up to speed quickly, they participate in a weeklong Skill Sprint with the Captain where they complete a Minimum Viable Product.
Step Zero - The Skill Sprint Captain
The Captain of a Skill Sprint should be a subject expert in the technology that will be adopted. They should have many deployments under their belt and have a deep understanding of the caveats and special cases. Their job is to lead the process and ensure that the team is enabled at every moment. They should ideally have some teaching experiance - be patient, creative with great communication and collaboration skills.
Step One - Define the Minimum Viable Product
The first step in adopting any technology should be to define the first business impact that this technology should have. The Minimum Viable Product should affect the work of at least one permanent employee - hopefully for the better. It is important that something actually changes for the Skill Sprint to be successful. There are no "Proof Of Concepts" here - real things have to change.
Step Two - Assemble the Team
Up to three permanent members of staff should be committed into the Skill Sprint. They will need to be completely excused from their day to day duties for the duration of the one week sprint. These members of staff will do all of the work required to complete the Minimum Viable Product within the sprint. If the task is not accomplished by the end of the sprint they should be able to continue on until the delivery is complete. Throughout the process the Captain is not permitted to touch a keyboard.
Step Three - Plan to expose risks and caveats
New technologies have to be integrated with existing process and technology. The Captain will work with the team to expose risks, uncertainties and possible sticking points. This shouldn't take more than a few hours - if it's getting laborious then the MVP is probably too ambitious.
Step Four - JFDI
In a private room - removed from slack, email and other nuisances the team delivers the Minimum Viable Product. The Captain guides the process - bringing the team back on-course where necessary to ensure that the team stays focussed and on goal. The Captain will have to maintain the focus of the Skill Sprint - moderating discussion and maintaining discipline.
By the end of the process the team will have delivered a working product in the new technology and will have the skills and ownership required to push things forward. Ideally the Captain will take the team 90% of the way within the Skill Sprint - leaving them in a position where things can be completed under their own steam. This can be quite difficult for a Captain as they will be unable to share in the glory but this ensures the team enjoys the full liminality of the experience. They themselves will be transformed.