In this issue:
If you’re trying to use agile approaches or manage an agile transformation, consider these three mindsets for you, your project, and your organization:
- Manage for change (Part 1)
- Emphasize collaboration. (Part 2)
- Use principles, not practices, so teams can be autonomous and deliver what they need to deliver. (this part)
Many organizational leaders think they need to standardize on a set of agile practices that all the teams can use. However, agile approaches encourage inspect-and-adapt thinking even for the practices. Not every team has the same context. Standardization can prevent teams from succeeding. Teams who use principles, not practices, succeed more often than teams who attempt to standardize.
I've seen three common questions when I work with managers and teams:
Question 1: Should teams standardize on iterations or one kind of board?
Some teams have predictable intake. They can create minimum features/stories as a team, manage their few interruptions, and deliver on a regular basis. An iteration-based approach can work for them.
Some teams have much less predictable intake. They might need more experiments so they can change the next item. Or, they have more interruptions for product support. Or, the team is distributed across many time zones which makes collaboration difficult. Those teams need to see where the work is, and manage for change. When these teams use a flow-based agile approach, they often discover they have more options for their success.
Answer: Don't standardize on a board. Encourage each team to see how work flows through their team in their context. Instead of the strict timebox for an iteration, consider a regular cadence of retrospectives, demos, and replanning.
Question 2: Should teams standardize on standups to address collaboration and status?
Standups are great when team members need to make micro-commitments to each other to finish the work. If teams swarm, or mob, they don't need standups. The team makes micro-commitments to each other every hour or even more often. (If you're not sure what I mean, see Pairing, Swarming, and Mobbing.)
Answer: If the team members work separately, standups help them resynchronize and recommit to each other. If the team members collaborate with each other, they might not need a standup.
Avoid standups for deep discussion and problem exploration. And, if team members don't have enough hours of overlap, don't use standups. Hand off the work to the “next” team member.
Question 3: Should teams standardize on velocity with points to estimate and commit?
Many teams use velocity in the form of story points to estimate. Any story with a point higher than a “one” can create a variety of measurement traps. Instead of measuring velocity, consider measuring measure cycle time. Cycle time will offer you a more accurate idea about capacity and and duration.
Answer: If the team finds velocity and points useful, use them. However, if your team has trouble with inaccurate estimation, consider cycle time. See Unearthing Your Project Delays for more discussion of cycle time.
Principles Over Practices
When teams use principles to design their work systems, they are more likely to succeed. Teams need autonomy to:
- Collaborate with each other and their customer(s) so they can manage for change as in Part 1.
- Visualize their work and manage their collaboration as a team so they can experiment as in Part 2.
- Deliver small increments as often as possible so they can reflect on what they delivered and what they might want to change.
We're fortunate in the agile community. We have many possible approaches to manage the work so teams can succeed. Use a retrospective or kaizen at every level in your organization to work via principles, not practices. That way, the teams can collaborate and you can manage for change.
This series has focused on agile transformation challenges. If you are in the midst of an agile transformation, please join Gil Broza and me at the Influential Agile Leader workshop. You'll visualize your various systems and see possibilities for change. Join us April 24-25, 2019 in Toronto. Register now to save your seat. We're already 2/3 full. I hope to see you there. (Have questions? Email me.)
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
Here are links you might find useful:
- My Books
- Online Workshops
- Managing Product Development Blog
- Create an Adaptable Life
- Johanna's Fiction
Till next time,
© 2019 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile, change, collaboration, principles, transition to agile