Agile So Far – August

We are now on our third iteration and I’m feeling far more confident about our ability to execute consistently but am going to stay focused here for at least another iteration to ensure we’ve captured as many issue type scenarios and contingency plans. All in all I feel like we’re doing pretty well. We’re hitting dates more often, managing tasks/projects with a lot more efficiency and the communication gains are apparent across the board and I believe we’re even beginning to have a bit more fun in the process.

Holding a Retrospective

I’ve been facilitating project post-mortems for more than a decade now, in that time I’ve come to rely on a simple three step process – What worked well? What needs improvement? What should we look at changing or implementing? Typically I send out those three questions in one of two formats, either in a document that outlines the processes we’re reviewing when something more formal is needed or the group is larger or simply in an email asking everyone to either respond or bring their feedback with them to a meeting. In both scenarios the feedback is discussed in an open forum but I do find that with larger groups and more complicated processes that the formal method gives you additional detail that might not be captured in a meeting with everyone speaking.

Tracking Unplanned Tasks

One of our biggest issues surrounds unplanned tasks, during our first iteration we had our jumper track these manually but in second one we implemented a list on our team SharePoint site where everyone would put anything unplanned that came up in order to provide us with some tracking ability. What we found during that time was that it would be even more helpful adding in a column to note what, if any, planned tasks were impacted, that’ll be ready to go for the next iteration.  Since we average an almost equivalent amount of unplanned tasks done as planned I’m pretty keen to get a good amount of visibility on it.

Getting Better at Reporting

We’re using a fairly standard burn down chart but I don’t believe that we’re in a fairly standard environment due to the unplanned task situation that is coming to light. So in order to make that a bit more transparent we added another column in our chart that shows daily unplanned tasks completed. It doesn’t always correlate to an issue with completing planned tasks but it is still worthwhile to get out there and get discussions going on impacts.

Dealing with Benched/Blocked Projects

This last iteration we had a project owner change her mind the first day in leaving us with a completely unallocated resource. We hadn’t yet looked at building out backlogs so we quickly switched him over to an internal documentation project that had languished for a few months. This, I feel, is something I could have spent some time on earlier to prevent anyone from being purposeless, which can be as stressful as being overloaded, and I’ve put on my task list to have a comprehensive backlog in place by the middle of next month.

Other Ideas

To ensure we’re as successful as possible we’ve decided that we will no longer commit to project where we’re waiting on outside resources to complete a task before we can begin. That may lengthen time lines but in my mind is so much better than having to go to a customer with a delay because a server wasn’t ready or something similar. On the other side of that we’ll also be clear when making our commitments that testing resources need to be booked up front so we’re not waiting in pretesting limbo.

 

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