Today is the first day to start applying and implementing a new Agile framework and concepts, and already you can feel some vertigo, some chills down your spine, so how best to start? The way you adopt and implement basic Agile fundamentals will determine the success of a transformation journey, and your ability to successfully scale that transformation. The way a team adopts and implements the new framework and practices will map the success of evolving into a more mature and ambitious change delivery practice.
Keeping it simple, we will focus on three fundamental Agile ceremonies that fit within the sprint timeframe:
- Stand-up (aka Daily Scrum)
- Retrospective (aka Retro)
Note that these ceremonies need not be restricted to an Agile practice. Feel free to adopt them in a Waterfall or any other combined framework you feel comfortable with, as they encourage team collaboration, delivery ownership and a drive for continuous improvement.
1. Team Stand-Up. This ceremony facilitates a collaborative and supporting environment for our team, and you are part of it. This meeting is intended to be brief – less than 15 minutes – so any in-depth discussions about impediments are deferred until after the event is complete.
- At the stand-up, all the team members should actively and openly update on progress and any impediments to the progress of the ongoing sprint.
- At the end of each stand-up, everybody in the team should have a clear understanding of thestatus of the current sprint and the tasks for the successful completion of the sprint.
- The stand-up protocols and structure will be in continuous change, adapting to team dynamics, tools used to document and illustrate the sprint (post-its, Kanban boards on a screen, Jira boards, etc) and the team's own personality: embrace the change and enjoy it!
It is worth noting that we have sometimes experienced stands-up where members of the team are just standing-up, chanting a shopping list, bored and not knowing why they are there. Please, don't do this.
2. Demo. This is the ceremony that will enable an open conversation with our stakeholders, align requirements with expectations and map our progress/success.
- At the end of the sprint, we will be showcasing the features that have been delivered (complete or incomplete) during the sprint: internally for the team, externally for our stakeholders.
- For the team, this is an opportunity to validate our output, evaluate our performance and get constructive feedback and encouragement from our peers.
- For our stakeholders, it is an opportunity to discuss our progress, reassure stakeholders regarding their expectations and ensure our alignment with the objectives and targets set by the business.
3. Retrospective. A retro allows us to regularly reflect on our team's performance to enable continuous improvement and promote self-organization in the team.
- It is the analysis, evaluation and reflection that the team performs at the end of each sprint.
- Our people, processes and tools are being evaluated to improve the quality, effectiveness and consistency of our output as a team.
- Each member will provide open and honest feedback about what worked well, what did not work and what needs to be improved.
- The key output of the retro session will be the retro action plan, with the list of action items and owners we have decided and agreed.
This is the opportunity to reflect on our performance for continuous improvement, review team dynamics and – where necessary – eat some humble pie. The output of the retros dramatically improves when a relaxed, creative and convivial mood is encouraged, for instance by incorporating snacks.
In summary, executing these three Agile ceremonies effectively will be key to developing a robust Agile practice, and can easily be adapted for a more traditional Waterfall framework. Always try to remember the purpose and goals of each of the ceremonies and question whether they are indeed fit for purpose – and ultimately whether you achieved your intended goals.
Stand-ups and retros should help unleash the talent within your team by encouraging ownership of deliverables, and the demos should align specifications with expectations. Across all three, look to learn from your mistakes, be ready to adapt – and don't be afraid of experimenting (and failing). Properly understood and executed, these three building blocks will allow you to expand your Agile practice, scale up transformation, and change delivery across the organization.
Measuring delivery performance, sprint planning, collaboration within bigger organizations – these I’ll leave for another occasion. Good luck and enjoy the journey!