Why would a company want to invest in the Agile process? It has gone beyond the fad of the month and is becoming more mainstream in what is being done and how. There are lots of reasons that exist to be all about that Agile, but getting a company over the hump to commit to truly being Agile is nothing short of transformative. The goal is to help your teams be more communicative, efficient, effective, nimble and be able to bring products to market sooner. So, why not?
Encouraging communication comes as a result of formalized meetings and informal collaboration. Yes, there are sprints kicked off by a sprint planning session. They are accompanied by a 15 minute daily standup and a retrospective every couple weeks.
Let’s investigate the daily standup. 15 minutes a day. This is a time for the team to communicate what is going on in their work world and for them to ask one another how to assist with impediments. Again, 15 minutes for this valuable communication activity, well worth the time it would take to grab another cup of coffee. Teams truly engaged in their daily standups see the value add that comes from this simple cadence check and opportunity to inspect and adapt towards accomplishing the sprint goal.
So many managers want to have efficiency. When this is being talked about, what do you think they really mean? Yes, you guessed it… timeliness. While it is important to be prompt or efficient, even more important is the exercise of generating value based off of the time being used. Are you utilizing a timebox with not only your stand-ups but also your sprint planning sessions, retrospectives, backlog refinement sessions and other organized meeting time? Here are some ideas for timeboxes:
Sprint Planning - 1 hr/week of sprint
Backlog Grooming - Not to exceed 1 hr/week
Daily Standup - 15 minutes or less
Retrospective - 30 min to 1 hour
Sprint Review (Internal Review and Sprint Demo) - No more than 1 hour
Remember, it is not the time that makes you efficient but it is what the takeaways are from the time that is spent. What has been learned? What is being changed? What needs to be continued and accentuated more? Teams that are timeboxing their efforts are efficient because they are more productive and prompt as to how they act upon a call for change.
Yes, effective use of time and efforts is crucial. Team members, especially developers will complain about time in meetings if they are not viewed as an effective use of time. In the retrospective for example, the team is able to reflect on what went well and not so well in the past sprint. This is an opportunity for the team to improve, learn and make the next and future sprints better. A team several years ago when proposing the idea of doing away with the retrospective revolted with the sentiment…
“Don’t take away our retrospective. It’s all we have that helps us to really make change that we have control over. If you take that away, what do we really have left to make a difference in what we are doing at work?”
Similar thoughts have been shared by team members across industries as to the effective use of their time in the retrospective. It is amazing how with a little bit of time inspecting current practices, adaptations can be made that leads to catastrophic success. It’s the small things that really make a big difference and when done effectively, there really is no alternative for that level of success. For the naysayers, don’t focus on the “extra” time spent on the process, but on the strides your team can make.
What is Agile? It is the ability to adapt and adjust quickly. Otherwise stated as nimble. Wouldn’t it be better for stakeholders for teams to identify problems in a matter of weeks instead months or years, enabling the team to make changes and continue down the process to have a product done?
I recently worked with a team who had a significant personnel change and that one faction changed their thoughts on the ability to be agile. I have asked them, and I ask you, don’t forgo your basis because of chaos. Chaos will occur in every organization. Don’t hesitate to let the ScrumMaster, Product Owner or coach help you through this process. Only in making conscious decisions about what is valued and important within an organization and product implementation is progress and success truly achieved.
Bring Products to Market Sooner
The process contributing to bringing a product to market quickly, is just that, a process.
Vision - before the project begins, set a vision for the life of the project. This sets expectations, but leave room for pivot if necessary.
Backlog - add all items in need to be worked on from the stakeholders. But remember, it is garbage in and garbage out. Be diligent about the quality of the backlog because this is what you and your product owner and team will use to build the roadmap.
Roadmap - the Product Owner, with the team, will develop this incrementally as they will pivot over several sprints to come to the best solution for product delivery.
Product Owner - the individual is responsible for knowing the ins and outs of the product as well as the needs of the internal and external stakeholders. Wow, what a responsibility. But at the end of the day, the stakeholders will look to the Product Owner to move the process forward in bringing products to market sooner.
In seeing clients who plan correctly, but poorly groom their backlog, they do not see the silver lining or benefit because their backlog is garbage. But, those that plan and maintain a bi-weekly meticulous backlog, will see a product to market in an express timeline.
At the end of the day, an Agile environment is best for the team, leadership and stakeholders to be effective and efficient in product delivery and team strength .