Agile methodologies are ideal for software development and IT projects, however they are also relevant in the field of management. These methods are taking root among developers, who are constantly being interrupted. The variety of tasks and having to deal with emergencies complicates the prioritization of their daily work. Management’s response is to strengthen the discipline and organisation of development teams through agile methodology.
At Toucan Toco, we have a strong culture of sharing between professions. This led us to implement these methods in all of our teams. Here are some tips and tricks on how to implement agile working within your teams.
Agile vs Waterfall
The agile methodology is an organisation working in short cycles. It enables development teams to manage products in a flexible, adaptive and iterative way. This process offers developers rapid feedback on the product code and allows them to deliver solutions that meet customer expectations.
This method, which focuses on iteration and capturing “feedback”, is in opposition to the traditional waterfall approach. The latter requires a very detailed specification of customer requirements early on in the project. The problem is that it does not leave room for any changes or evolution of the customer’s needs. The only interaction with the client during the project is in the final phase of the project, which can often be a source of conflict. It leaves the specifications open to interpretation, falling short of the customer’s real needs.
The ceremony: each team meets for 2 hours every week to talk about the previous week. The objective is to share the elements that worked during the previous week, while also discussing any difficulties that were experienced. The team then defines its upcoming tasks and prioritizes them according to their importance. Each task is divided into several actions to achieve for the week; the aggregation of these tasks is the “sprint” of the week.
So that everyone can keep track of the project’s progress, we use the Kanban methodology. It involves breaking a project down into several tasks. We gauge the difficulty and time needed for each task in order to adapt to the team’s production capacity. This way of planning the week, allows team members to choose tasks to be accomplished during the week in an autonomous way, while respecting their priority.
Stand-up meetings are daily meetings, which last 10 minutes and are held at the beginning of the day. These might sound familiar if you’ve read about Think Productive’s Morning Huddles. Everyone’s goal is to answer three questions:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- Where am I stuck, where do I need help ?
The goal of these meetings is to communicate the progress of the tasks and quickly resolve difficulties in order to prevent a slowdown of momentum. Some tips on making these meetings extra efficient for your team:
Do it standing up! The discomfort of this position encourages people to keep it short and concise. Furthermore, only the person holding the “talking stick” has the right to speak. This can be a fun object or something unusual from the office. It stops people from being interrupted and allows them to quickly finish their brief.
Our development team possesses the technical knowledge that is essential for the progress of our product. This unique knowledge leads to constant requests from our team, from fixing a bug to changing something in our marketing support. These constant interruptions created a loss of productivity for our developers. Our answer to this problem was to direct such requests to someone we call the guardian. His/her role? To protect the other developers. This position is filled by a different team member each week.
Regular duties include answering questions from other members of the team and dealing with any emergencies. Therefore, the guardian is the only person whose work we can interrupt. We identify the guardian by his/her multi-colored horn. 🙂
The Ability to Work Calmly
These working methods allow you to work calmly. We have a better vision of what we can produce and how long it takes us to do it. We now focus on what brings added value to our company and we find it easier to work across our different departments, as everybody speaks the same agile language.
By Kilian Bazin
Kilian is the CEO of Toucan Toco, which produces data visualization software for end users.