I recently visited a client of ours who started working with our e-learning platform. With a dedication seldom seen, they started summing up all the goals they wanted to achieve and asked me how the software could support this. I must point out this was a company with thousands of employees and probably hundreds of training programs. Somewhat stunned my reply was “..and you want to achieve all these things at once?”. The client replied: “That was our initial idea..”. I strongly urged him to try a different approach.
This article will give you 4 reasons to give agility a try.
First of all
What is agility? Since I got your attention and wouldn’t like to lose it at this point, I’ll just point out three basic principles every agile process should be based on:
- Break up work into small (manageable) quantities that you will deliver in small iterations.
- Do the most valuable items first (this can be based on a return on investment or on the items that are likely to have the highest success rate).
- Re-evaluate after every iteration and adapt if needed. In other words: respond to change over following a plan.
This approach is most commonly used in software engineering but, as I hope you’ll see, can be used in most industries.
Reason 1: maximizing the chance of success
The smaller the task you pick up, the bigger the chance that you can be successful in finishing it. In the example of my client I could ask him what training was giving him the biggest headache and then focus on this one training, instead of hundreds of trainings, creating a solid solution for just this one problem. Second in implementing the solution the client could focus on just one department at a time instead of all departments.
Reason 2: minimizing the chance of failure
This may seem obvious since we’ve just established that we’re trying to maximize the chance of success. I choose to mention this as a separate reason because I find people behaving rather strange when it comes to managing risks. They ask a project manager to do a risk analysis, come up with all sorts of risks and then try to write down countermeasures for each one. This results in an awful amount of paperwork and ironically the things that wind up happening during the project often are not in the risk management document. I’d like to make the bold statement that if you need risk management on a project you haven’t made the “chunks” of work small enough. And if you have there is no need for risk management, just adapt as needed after every iteration.
Reason 3: maximizing focus
Since your focusing on the small amount of work you’re about to deliver, you can maximize the capacity and focus of your team to successfully finish the tasks at hand. This helps people to understand what is expected of them and, in my experience, contributes to a better team spirit.
Reason 4: creating a winners “vibe”
To be honest: using agile techniques will not automatically create a winners “vibe”. However because you’re delivering frequently and more successfully this may be one of the most important side effects agility could have - “look what we’ve accomplished this time!!” - That may be a greater reward to the people working on your team than any bonus could accomplish.
Last but not least
What is the right amount of work to be picked up by a team? In general this completely depends on the team, however as a golden rule it is recommended that the work you commit to, can be finished within one month. If not… try breaking it down into smaller portions.
I’m posting to learn and share so please feel free to comment, give your opinion or share your experience?
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