Which Agile Are You?
There is a right and wrong way to practice Agile. Leave the shortcuts at the door.
The age of Agile is upon us, but are you ready to take it on? Many will reply with the affirmative, and many may honestly believe that. However, when only 18% of companies report having a mature Agile practice, a divide clearly exists. Companies are content to pick and choose which Agile principles they adopt, rather than making a full commitment to it. That, however, is not Agile development, but simply Agile for the sake of being Agile.
Like anything else, you get out of it what you put in. As 92% of senior executives believe organizational agility is critical to business success, following Agile by the book is really the only way to realize all of the benefits it carries with it. So what changes can you make to take you from agile to Agile? Take a look.
Get More From Your Standup
There are countless techniques organizations can implement within their Agile testing methodology, but none more heavily adopted than the daily standup meeting. However, for a process used this extensively, many are prone to misusing their time. As a result, many organizations fail to mature at the pace they should be.
To get the most from your standup, you must be organized and rigid in your structure. The time, length, location, and purpose of your meeting should all remain unchanged from one day to the next. This not only develops a routine, but places accountability on your team members to always be present.
For optimal results, schedule your standups for 15 distraction-free minutes in an empty room. By scheduling for a short period of time, this requires every team member to come prepared and speak succinctly while answering the same three questions every day. These questions are:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What do I need to accomplish today?
- What, if anything, is preventing me from accomplishing my goals?
If you stick to this format and provide each team member 30 seconds to answer, you can keep wasted time to a minimum. Remember, this is not a social meeting, but an opportunity to quickly sync and understand the lay of the land. If you treat it as such, you’ll experience far greater efficiencies.
It’s a Sprint, Not a Marathon
If there’s one concept everyone understands about Agile, it is the use of sprints. Breaking projects up into sprints ideally sets teams up for more manageable execution and achievement of goals. However, without proper coordination of team members and timeframes, you won’t see the efficiencies you set out to find.
To begin with, how many people do you assign to each Agile team? There’s no exact number, but teams with three to five members tend to perform better than those with eight or more. Communication has a lot to do with this, as smaller teams result in fewer lines of communication. As a result, there are fewer people to keep on track and fewer opportunities for project details to get lost along the way.
The other side of things is the length of your sprint. Typically, these can last anywhere from one to four weeks. While the ideal duration may depend on your project type, organizations tend to find more value in two-week sprints. A shorter window allows teams to focus more intently on fewer tasks, resulting in shorter, yet more detailed backlogs to manage on the back end.
Sprints are all about setting realistic expectations and workflows for your teams. Thus, the more manageable you can make your teams and sprint lengths, the better quality your feedback will be. At the same time, the more consistent your sprints are, the more fluid the process will become.
A Scrum Master Is Not a Project Manager
While it seems natural to have a scrum master manage your scrums and daily standups, many organizations leave this to a project manager, believing it will yield the same results. While this may suffice, failing to define and differentiate the roles actually creates a lot of organizational inefficiency.
At a high level, your project manager is responsible for the big picture. He or she breaks down the project into sprints, assembles the sprint teams, and manages the budget – basically equivalent to the general manager of a sports organization.
On the other hand, you have a scrum master. Your scrum master takes what the project manager assembles and sees every sprint through to completion – essentially acting as the coach. This means putting everyone in the best situation to succeed, from assigning people to tasks, removing any barriers, and helping get the best results from the team, both individually and as a whole.
When a project manager goes too far into the weeds, it muddies the water between the goals of an individual sprint and the goals of the larger project. By drawing a line in the sand, you allow people to better prioritize their own time, as well as the time of others. If you want to move at a true Agile pace, you cannot ignore this.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to Agile development. You either do it the right way or you don’t. How you choose to take it on though will clearly reflect in your organizational efficiency and product quality. Are you ready to level up from agile to Agile? There’s no better time than the present.