Written by Robert Lean
Agile. It’s the program management framework that’s taken the tech world by storm. And with good reason. It’s an empowering framework that lets delivery teams build excellent products that solve real problems for customers and that get better every week. But what if you’re not a delivery team? Can you benefit from Agile methodologies? Definitely.
I’ve put together a curated list of Agile ceremonies and practices that will enhance the efficiency of any organisation.
- Daily Standups
- Visual Radiators
By adopting these practices you’ll build the foundations for an empowering company culture of innovation and collaboration. Sound like something your organisation needs? Read on.
A quick team huddle at the beginning of each day.
Wondering why you should check in with your team every day? Well, have you ever been in your weekly team meeting and learnt that one of your teammates had been stuck on a problem for three days that you can solve in 20 minutes? Or have you ever spent 20 hours on a piece of work only to find out that the team priorities have changed and that piece of work is no longer relevant. By checking in with your team every day you nip these inefficiencies in the bud.
Get your immediate team together and have each person answer these three questions.
1. What did I do yesterday?
2. What am I going to do today?
3. What (if anything) is blocking me from completing today’s work?
Standups should only take 10 minutes, or 15 minutes if you’re a big team.
How do I know that I’m doing my stand-up right?
When you talk about what you did yesterday and what you’re doing today, focus on the big important tasks. This might be, “I’m working with Smith and Smith to secure a partnership for our organisation” or “I’m working on the end of financial year report”. You don’t need to inform your team about calls that you need to make or emails that you have to write.
Stand-ups are about sharing information not discussion. One person should speak at a time and each team member should speak before anyone gives a response.
If two people do need to have a discussion based on what has come up during stand up, then that’s great! You’re probably helping each other out with a blocker or clarifying your priorities. Keep any breakout discussions to the end of stand up so that you only involve the people who are affected. This lets your teammates get on with their work and stops them from getting stuck as a bystander in a meeting.
Want to make your standups even more effective?
Standups are a great way to increase collaboration and effective communication amongst teams. Done right, they can also increase communication up and down your company hierarchy. Quite often large companies are very good at sharing information down. Bubbling that information up, however, that’s a different story. To counteract this problem:
- Get each of your project teams to do a daily standup.
- Then, have each project manager have a second standup with their peers and their direct report.
- The direct report then has their second standup with their peers and, usually, an executive.
Each day, this looks something like this:
9:30 – 9:40 – Project team standup (includes project manager)
9:45 – 9:55 – Project managers standup (includes division lead)
10:00 – 10:10 – Division leads standup (includes executive)
What’s the power of this system? It’s Tuesday, one of your project officers realises that they can’t complete their work because of a major blocker. They share this information with the team at 9:30. Turns out, only a division lead can resolve this blocker and the project’s going to be on hold until it’s resolved. By 9:55 you (the project manager) have informed your division lead and the problem is resolved by 1pm the same day. Like the sound of that communication?
The two-week timebox
Feeling overwhelmed by competing priorities is a common experience. To change it, break your year into two-week ‘sprints’, or ‘work blocks’.
At the beginning of each sprint task your project lead to a project update. This way, your whole team knows if any priorities have changed. Then, ask every person in your team to write down what they’re going to achieve in the next two weeks. All these goals should be then collected and documented in a shared file. It is important to be clear with the team how each goal contributes to the overall project delivery and current priorities.
As a result, everyone knows exactly what to focus on for the next two weeks.
Be at better team
One of the best ways to improve your team is to make time to improve your team. At the end of each sprint, run a retrospective. This is a half hour workshop where you come together as a team to discuss these themes:
- What went well in the past two weeks?
- From the past two weeks, what do we need to improve?
- From the past two weeks, what puzzles us?
A great way to run this session virtually is to use Mentimeter – it’s a lightweight polling platform. Get everyone to answer each of the questions. Then group your answers and ask the group to vote on what they want to discuss.
Before you start, make sure to frame your retrospectives so that you generate a productive conversation. I like to frame my retros like this:
“We’ve just finished a sprint. Congratulations everyone. We want to continually improve how we work together as a team and continually improve the outcomes we generate, as a team, for our customers. That’s why we’re coming together. We’re going to identify the things we did well and should continue as well as anything that we need to change, as a team, to improve how we work and how we deliver value to our clients. During our discussion, please remember: we’re here to lift us up as a team, not to pull anyone down”.
Never heard of information radiators and information refrigerators? Picture this.
You’re working at home and you’ve got a radiator on halfway across the room from you. Despite how far away it is you can sit there enjoying its gentle warmth. Now imagine that you’re hungry. Your food doesn’t wash over you, you need to get up, go downstairs, walk into your kitchen, open the refrigerator and then eat your delicious snack. Your snack exists, but you have to go find it. The same principles apply to information.
To support your teams’ decision making, let vital project information wash over them like the heat from a radiator. Don’t make them go looking in a fridge (CRM or excel sheet) to find what they need.
Here’s what I mean.
I used to work for a micro mobility company – think e-scooters and e-bikes. We had a clear goal for the amount of times we wanted riders to use our vehicles each day. This target was up on the wall for everyone in the team to see. Next to that target we have a massive graph where we plotted, by hand, how many rides we facilitated over the past day. By having these two pieces of information on the wall for everyone to see, we ensured that our whole team understood whether our current strategy was working. Are we hitting our target? Great, kick on with the strategy. We’ve missed the mark? It’s time to do some investigating to work out why and what we need to change.
What are the most important metrics for your team?
Let’s pretend you’re a tutoring company. Here’s what I’d put on the wall:
- Percentage of students with a learning plan
- Percentage of parents who received an update on their students progress last week
- Percentage of students whose grades a) improved, b) stayed the same, c) decreased this term
- Percentage of parents who would recommend your agency to other parents
Want to learn more ways to improve
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