Whenever we train new groups in Agile, one area sure to generate a huge amount of discussion is centred around the product owner. Reactions invariably include: we don’t have these; how can one person possibly represent the needs of a complex web of stakeholders; even if we find one they will never be able to spare all the time necessary to be with the team ….
For several years now the SCRUM “method” replete with Scrum Masters and Sprints has dominated the agile development world. When you read the literature or attend reputable training, it is very clear that a great deal of attention is paid to applying the principles of the agile manifesto.
Unfortunately, real life gets messy, especially when we have to work with colleagues who are less savvy than us about the disciplines of agile. Here at the messy frontier of change, where we are introducing the brave new world of agile into organizations that previously have been about as agile as an asthmatic ant (carrying some very heavy shopping), we have to be a lot more careful.
We have to be very careful how we frame the ideas and principles of how to be agile. This even extends to the words we use.
So let’s just think about the word sprint.
A sprint race is one where you expend the maximum possible energy in the shortest possible amount of time so that you cover the ground faster than anyone else in the race.
The point is it’s all over incredibly quickly, then there’s a long rest before the next race. As experienced agile people we all know that that’s exactly what Scrum talks about too. It emphasizes the importance of the break represented by the retrospective and planning sessions to allow the team to recover its stamina before the next sprint starts. Unfortunately those less knowledgeable than ourselves don’t worry about the principles, they just focus on the word (it’s called marketing).
In too many novice organizations the focus in Agile is on the aspect of speed rather than of sustainability – speed at all costs. And there lies the rub. “Why do you need this retrospective, it’s just wasting time?” “Let’s make sprints longer so that we do fewer of these retrospectives”. “Let’s not have a retrospective every sprint”. You’ve all heard it.
Sprinting (as a concept) is also about competition, not collaboration – running faster than your competitors. Of course, the principle is about enabling teams to deliver as quickly as possible rather than about competition. But here comes our manager again – “so how many story points did you deliver last sprint?”
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, right?
An idea that I often talk about with newcomers to agile is that an agile project is more like a surf session.
The team spots the wave and paddle towards it. Then we turn and start paddling like mad to get the speed up ready to ride the wave. Now the team rides the wave, getting out of each other’s way, helping each other to get a clear ride, supporting each other when need be. Then the wave loses momentum and we are back in quieter waters. We can look at how the ride went and get ready for the next wave.
For me the real strength of the analogy is that it has a completely natural heart beat – waves arrive, give us a ride then die away. In contrast, real sprinting has no heartbeat – it is a single, competitive event. Sounds like a waterfall project to me.
Now, how about that 6 month sprint?
Is available now. This webinar is focussed on those new to Agile and provides a brief overview of the origins of Agile, what Agile actually is, how it works and lastly some of the key practices that underpin Agile.
You can claim ICAgile learning credits from attending this webinar. Simply go to the ICAgile website and click the “Click here to claim an attendance code from a meet up, conference or webinar button” at the top right. Enter the following code Lam-AFWebinar-01 when prompted to do so.
Agile is now a proven approach to delivering software projects but it can still be a challenge to integrate effectively with existing company structures and processes. There are many factors that drive the size of this challenge:
In a series of three 45 minute webinars pitched at a convenient midday timeslot we’re covering the following topics:
- Setting a Process Improvement Project up for Success on the 20th August
- Managing Agile on the 21st August
- Agile Fundamentals on the 28th August
To find out more and to book simply visit our seminar page here.