This is Agile? – Letitia Fearon

About a week before the Agile on the Beach conference I get an e-mail from Alan Kelly asking me if there was any chance I could speak. Gulp! If an opportunity comes knocking, I believe you should take it. There was a great line up of other speakers as well, which would make it hard to say no. So my talk…

The session starts with everyone having to stand if they work in an agile environment, about 99% get up. Then you’re asked to remain standing if you truly believe that you work in an Agile environment. About 90% of those standing sat down. So even we don’t believe that we really work in an Agile environment. So what is going on?

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I believe agile has crossed the chasm, it’s been around for over 20 years and now it’s common place in almost every company that there is an agile transformation happening. This crossing the chasm by Geoffrey Moore is usually used about technology. A smart phone is a great example of a product that has gone through the product life cycle. Tech users were early adopters whereas now most phones are smart with just a few parents not owning them!

A  lot of companies are doing things differently, open salaries, no titles, no limitations on sick days or holidays. GCHQ have a platform similar to kickstarter where anyone can submit an idea for consideration and people can vote for the ideas. But people did not see all the times these companies failed, we only see and hear about the successes. Working in an Agile way takes time and commitment.

Unless you have buy-in from the entire team you will never be truly agile. After all there is no I in team. Rock stars are often not team players, sharing knowledge amongst others. Would you rather have someone who says they know it all or that knows their weakness but still wants to help?

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Bigger teams encourages knowledge silos due to the large number of communication paths, if you have ten people in your team you have 45 communication paths. Adding people to a project at the point of realising that a project will run over will normally make it even later.

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Kanban boards promote visibility of work within teams. It helps to spread work amongst team members, making on time delivery much more likely.

Vision statements are often missing from a project, start with this and then use this to confirm the goals, critical success factors with your stakeholders. All stories that are currently being worked on must be working towards that vision statement. Teams must pull together to reach these goals. Story mapping can help ensure that all are pulling in the same direction.

Teams need a shared understanding of the work being undertaken and the direction it will take them.

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You can learn a lot from David Brailsford. He used the core principle with the GB cycling team.

  • Committed +
  • Ownership +
  • Responsibility =
  • Excellence

By committing to one thing you will fail something else. You will achieve excellence in the one thing you focus on. You must own every aspect of the work needed to reach that goal and be responsible for reaching it.

Marginal gains make the difference between good and awesome. Look at all areas of your plan / life and look for micro optimisations and waste reductions in order to make each item just 1% more efficient. They will all add up to something bigger than the sum of parts.

The work environment is important to team moral and productivity. Use it to share knowledge by creating areas that ideas can be shared freely and openly. Smaller teams co-location by project has been most efficient.

Mob and paired programming are good ways to build team morale, sharing skills and improving efficiency.

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Team training, be it a course, conference of lunch and learn build stronger teams. Without team building it will take time for a team to gel and to become more effective. A good way is to get all members out of the office and into an unfamiliar environment, that way no one is more comfortable ensuring everyone is on the same level playing field.

Fast / slow thinking and context switching need to be taking account when planing work. If you are always context switching then you never got to use your system 2 thinking.

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Track waste / non project time over the course of a project and reflect on it during the retrospective. This is a great way to capture some easy optimisations.

Help teams be great.

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Part written by  who was actively blogging throughout the conference.

The full talk is below.

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