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:
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.
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.
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.
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!