Are agile practices really important? The truth.

Are agile practices really important?  The truth.

Are Agile practices really important?  The truth.

1.

What are Agile practices?


For today's discussion, we will use the business context of organisations wanting to deliver projects on time, to budget and to the expected (or exceeded) quality -- and importantly to be able to change flexibly to meet challenges (such as COVID).


The practices are embedded in an actually "simple" framework of principles, rituals, roles and artifacts.  


(FYI, interestingly there have been many attempts to "engineer" and detail these into procedures like other project management practices and knowledge domains, but my experience is to "keep it simple" and keep the focus on people -- not detailed processes and procedures).


In any case, whereas the framework is simple, the challenge is the requirement of self-discipline to implement these practices vigilantly.


The 12 Principles are based on the Agile Manifesto:

1 ) Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.


2) Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.


3) Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.


4) Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.


5) Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.


6) The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.


7) Working software is the primary measure of progress.


8) Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.


9) Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.


10) Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.


11) The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.


12) At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.


As you can see, the emphases are very much on people, working software (for IT projects) and simplicity.


The main rituals are based upon an agreed base period of time (i.e. called an iteration or sprint).

A sprint employs four different scrum ceremonies to ensure proper execution:

  • sprint planning,
  • daily scrum,
  • sprint review and
  • sprint retrospective. 
team

The primary Agile roles are:

  • Product Owner
  • Development Team
  • Scrum master

The key Agile artifacts (or deliverables) are:

  • Product Backlog
  • Sprint Backlog
  • Product Increment

I have found the key success factors of Agile are to stay focused on people, build in the planned continual prioritisation activities and build in the focus on continual process improvement (with feedback loops).


So as described the Agile practices are very different from standard project management and project practices. 


If you wish to learn more about these practices, please feel free to set up a free strategy call appointment with me at the following link:

Book a free appointment with Ken:

2.

Are they really important?


Increasingly businesses have reported that the old "command and control" and "management by surveilance" practices  are not working very effectively in these days of remote working challenges of COVID and of differing expectations by younger team members who are expecting to contribute more.


Business are needing to challenge existing process of marketing, distribution, talent acquisition and other processes -- and to reinvent more effective ones. 


Business writers like Gary Bolles, https://su.org/about/faculty/gary-bolles/ have written about the future of work and the nature of organisations in adapting to change.  


In summary, the consensus is that organisations need to look at ways of working more flexibly and of being more open to change - as a matter of survival.


The Agile Practices -- whether applied to projects or to the organisation as a whole -- are very relevant for organisations to respond to change.


The benefits of Agile practices are cited to include:

  • Increased visibility of project and business practices.
  • Faster time to market, resulting in higher revenue.
  • Building the right product (which incorporates the recent client requirements).
  • Improved quality (due to catching errors and risks earlier).
  • Increased productivity of teams (including less re-work).
  • More motivated teams who have fun.
  • Happy stakeholders (with products/services that meet their expectations). 

My experience also is that Team members grow more personally and professionally as they are expected (and trained) to be multi--functional, i.e. to understand the roles and tasks of others and to work more collaboratively than in other non-agile settings.  So even, for example,  the "nerdy" data analyst ends up contributing more -- and often brings remarkable and valuable insights (which wouldn't have happened in other "silo-ed" projects or organisations).

3.

How does one implement Agile practices?


The training of the teams in Agile practices is key to the success of the organisation realising the Agile benefits.


One method of training that I have found particularly helpful is based upon the work of Sally Elatta, the founder of Agility Health. https://agilityhealthradar.com/


She and her team have created videos for training and which show teams actually demonstrating the conduct of the various Agile rituals.


They have created a set of tools, Radars, which I have found helpful in understanding the strengths of organisations and the areas deserving improvement.  The areas of focus for Team Health Agility, for example, include:  Clarify (of Vision, Planning, Roles), Performance (i.e. Confidence, Measurements), Leadership (Management, Prodct Owner, Technical Leads, Team Facilitation), Culture (Team Dynamics), and Foundation (Agility, Team Structure).


Through my initial consulting efforts in a client organisation, I often conduct anonymous interviews with all of the Team and obtain ratings that help to inform the radars -- in addition to comments in which I look for trends. (See the attached figure with the individual dots representing the individual team members' ratings and the  squiggly lines which represents the average rating).  These radars can also be helpful in understanding the divergence of views by the individual team members -- which informs training plans.

agile

In addition to the training videos (which Team members can watch at home if appropriate), I have found that the on-site (or via collaborative tools) coaching of the teams in getting comfortable with the various rituals (e.g. daily scrums, sprint planning), is very valuable.  


For example, one client thought that they were doing the daily scrums appropriately but it was discovered that these daily scrum meetings had evolved from just 15 minutes to 1.5 hours -- and teams were frustrated!   With coaching, they returned to the self-disciplined 15 minute meetings while scheduling later smaller meetings to problem solve agreed issues.


Depending upon the maturity and size of the organisation, there are various methods of "staging" and implementing Agile practices, e.g. for large organisations with traditional waterfall project management and "command and control" management surveillance practices,  they can trial an Agile project by segregating a team "on the edge of the organisation" or "at the core of the organisation" with understood assumptions and "independence" in the project conduct.  


For smaller organisations, it can be more straightforward in training Teams and then coaching them and reassuring them on the conduct of the Agile practices and "rituals". 


In summary then, yes, Agile practices are very important for businesses of all sizes to implement, and now is the time to begin or mature these practices in your organisation.  It is truly a matter of survival  --  you can incorporate these skills of adapting to change.


If you are interested in understanding whether these Agile practices are appropriate for your Team -- or to improve and mature existing practices, please feel free to schedule an appointment for a free strategy call via the following link:  Book a free appointment with Ken: 


Also, if interested, the following companies provide "remote agile project management and scrum master services":  Check them out!

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