3 Legs to Standing Up an Agile Project

Maybe you’re starting your first Agile project.  You’ve read books and blogs.  You’ve had training.  You think you’re ready, but it’s still a daunting prospect.  There’s just so much to remember—so many details.

Here’s a little cheat sheet.  Forget all the details and the various ways you can implement Agile for the moment.  Let’s simplify the picture.  There are just three essential legs that your Agile project needs to stand.  Get those in place, and you’ll do OK.  Keep improving all three, and you’ll do fantastically!

Arranging the work.

Know what is the goal.  Everybody should know this.  The “things to be done” should be fed smoothly to the development team.  Iteration cycles should respect the capacity of the team.  So should release cycles.  Doing these cycles smoothly will allow the team to maximize their capacity better than pushing for higher productivity.  Delay making decisions until they’re really needed, and make use of what you learn in the mean time.  Get the flow going and measure progress in real terms—working software.

Doing the work.

Working in iterations, alone, won’t get the project done.  The team has to do a competent job at doing the work.  If they had trouble delivering before, then better focus on shorter term goals may help, but you still have to work at it.  In addition, the sharp focus of short iterations and measuring working software makes it harder to sweep problems under the rug.  The team could look worse until they get a handle on things.  Set a high standard with your definition of done and keep to it.  This is the real capacity of the team.  Work to improve skills to increase the capacity.  Work to eliminate unnecessary work.

Working together.

An incredible amount of productivity improvements of an Agile team comes from the synergy of working effectively together.  Build a team, a real gelled team, not just a work group assigned to a project.  Support each other.  Help each other grow.  Leave no team member behind.  Solve problems together.  Respect each other.  Respect the differences, the special abilities, the varying perspectives.  These things give the team strength and resilience.

These three legs are enough to stand up a new Agile project.  Use these three categories to organize all those details we put aside at the start of this post.  Use those details to help you steady these three legs.  Experiment and practice until you feel you can succeed at each of these three aspects of your project.  And then keep improving.  Keep looking for things you can do better.  Keep re-evaluating.

It’s really that simple.  I won’t promise that it’s easy.

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