In our continuing series of blog posts covering each of Alley’s team retreats, we’ve followed Team VIP to the Sedona desert and Team Delta to our nation’s capital. Both retreats provided wonderful opportunities for remote teams to meet in person for co-working and bonding. This time, we follow Team MOps, the Marketing and Operations team at Alley, to beautiful Portland, Maine at the tail end of summer.

Val Cucu, our Communications Manager, and Kelsey Locotos, People and Operations Coordinator, found us a picturesque rental house just north of downtown Portland, on the water, complete with a dining room table perfect for co-working, several great hang-out rooms, and a hot tub on the back patio. We arrived on a Monday night. Unfortunately, Ben Bolton, our Director of Development Operations, was delayed by weather flying in from out West. As sad as the team was, it didn’t stop us from eating lobster rolls, grabbing a beer or two, and having a nice soak in the jacuzzi. Sorry Ben!

Fortunately, Ben arrived first thing Tuesday morning, just in time for our first work session. The morning was spent working around the table towards our Sprint Goal. While Ben and I helped provision a development environment on Kelsey’s computer, Tim Schwartz, Bridget McNulty, Daniel Gale-Rosen, and Val swarmed on improvements for the Alley.co website.

After breaking for lunch, we spent the afternoon swarming on marketing strategy and ways to automate marketing analytics. After so many Zoom calls, it felt great to all be in the same room slapping idea-filled sticky notes to the wall! Even in the most cohesive teams, individuals can be pulled in several directions at once, so it was great to see how much we could accomplish when we got to work together in one place to work towards a single goal.

In the evening, the team embarked for a boat tour of Casco Bay at sunset. We followed this up with more lobster rolls and beer at the excellent Foulmouthed Brewing.

On Wednesday, we continued working together towards our Sprint Goal. The day’s highlight was a demo from Jeff Stanger, Alley’s Vice President of Information Services, on a predictive data model he developed for forecasting team capacity. Using historic Sprint data, team composition and velocity metrics, the MOps team will be partnering with Jeff to develop the model into a web tool to help us better understand and predict team velocity and capacity, which streamlines how we allocate new work and facilitate cross-team collaboration in the most effective way possible. Tackling challenging issues like this is one of the reasons that makes working in Operations at Alley so engaging, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with Jeff on the project. 

At the end of the day, the team paid a brief visit to the legendary beer bar Novare Res, and then returned home with a huge to-go bag full of lobster rolls (are you detecting a theme here?) for the retreat’s main event… Scrum Dungeons & Dragons!

Anticipation for Scrum D&D was building on the team for weeks, starting when Kelsey asked us all to design our own miniatures at Hero Forge Custom Minis. She created an elaborate tale of adventure and woe, ultimately battling us against an evil Waterfall Hag. (Might this have been a metaphor for waterfall-style project management?) We wouldn’t be a true Scrum team if we didn’t hold a retrospective on the game afterwards, so when the game concluded, we discussed what went well during the quest and how we might make improvements for next time. I, for one, might eat less lobster-rolls, as my focus during the game was a little impaired by a food coma. Then again, it’s Maine, so I might not.

Remote team retreats are wonderful opportunities to see how everyone works, and to find out how best to work together – whether you’re in the same place or not. Stay tuned for the next recap in our series of retreats to find out what else we can learn!

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