Agile So Far – May

Yesterday we completed our 11th iteration, I’d like to say at this point that we are experts, that every plan is executed flawlessly, and that we are the very model of an Agile team.  As I’m sitting here thinking about our postmortem today and mulling over the issues that arose this past iteration and all of those we have confronted before, I’m  wondering if everything really does need to be fixed or if there is room for some tiny bit of chaos in this method. By that I mean that I feel confident that we get it and that we’re living it to the best of our ability but it doesn’t have to be perfect – does it? And by whose definition of perfect do we aspire to?

With that being said…

Collaboration & Team Work

We started this process as seven very disparate individuals with different skills and very separate responsibilities, silos if you will. There was very little opportunity for working together on a project much less discussing a new approach or working together on solutions. I saw SCRUM as an opportunity for cross training and collaboration as well as the foundation for our migration to Agile processes. In a little more than a year we are regularly working together, brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of each other. I often hear about how another team member was instrumental in solving an issue or provided the missing insight into a design and the timing of a sick day is rarely a cause for stress.

Estimating

By far this is the most difficult piece of Agile to implement consistently; there have been iterations where we have hit every single target and there have been others were I’m not sure if we were even on the board.  Unexpected time off, unresponsive product owners, truly optimistic planning and a major shift in project priority or two have all occurred more than once.  At this point I do believe that we understand better what can go wrong and are working towards nailing the best ways to course correct.

Unplanned tasks

One of the reasons that I became interested in Agile was that I felt it would give some transparency to a common problem in our department, constant firefighting, reacting to a last minute customer changes and the scrambling to shift to the newest high priority project.  We started tracking these as part of our burn down chart and have discovered that we consistently equal the number of unplanned tasks that we had actually planned in any given iteration.  Part of me is giddy with the thought of what we could accomplish if we can only get rid of all those interruptions but that the thought is usually overruled by the knowledge that we can accomplish more than planned, be nimble enough to respond to our customers  and for the most part still deliver projects on time.

My Challenge

This year I’ve been working with a number of teams in implementing Agile in their own environments, providing training on the methodology, guidance on best practices, sharing my own trial and error and supporting their transitions. As those teams launch, develop and adjust Agile to suits their own needs, I also still need to keep my own team as my top priority and continue to give them the same support and nurturing as we move along on our own path.  That will be a delicate balancing act over the next few months, one I’m certain I can accomplish and still have fun.

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