Agile is a well-known project management practice that has moved well beyond software developers and their projects. Marketing, Sales, Finance and other industries are applying Scrum, Kanban and other Agile approaches in their processes and getting positive results. However, even with the best guidance and most extensive knowledge, making a transition from traditional project management into Agile is not easy. Trust me, having experienced multiple teams over going this change; there are always some things that just don’t seem to fit.
So instead of giving you the Agile theory once again, here are my top 7 tips on making sure Agile fits and actually works for you!
1. Don’t go all in from the start
When you first hear about Agile, you may be tempted to start practicing right away. I mean, it sounds great, there are multiple benefits, so why not? Well, there are two reasons. First, you will need time to learn and understand the processes. And second, no team likes sudden changes to their day-to-day activities. Approach the switch gradually and allow both yourself and your team time to learn, adjust and enjoy the process.
2. Don’t get stuck on one Agile framework
Agile is a beautiful thing as it offers complete freedom to its practitioners. As long as you respect the core values and principles, you can really do anything that suits you. So after you’ve gotten familiar with one method, take a look at the others. You may find a better fit, pick up a trick or two to enhance your process or create an entirely new custom framework just for yourself. Trying out just one Agile framework is like tasting just one candy out of the whole box. You wouldn’t do that, would you?
3. Keep your team small
Switching from other project management methods into Agile, many are tempted to stay with the already formed teams. It might seem more reasonable as this way the employees don’t have to deal with yet another change on top of the others. However, Agile practices really do work best in small collocated teams, and this should not be forgotten. Even if you choose not to do it right away, make sure to break the teams up later and compare their performance. You may be pleasantly surprised what smaller groups can achieve.
4. Get help
In its core, Agile is easy – deliver value, follow the manifesto, and it’s principles. However, having never used Agile in real life, actually implementing the chosen framework will prove to be difficult. Getting a coach, a consultant or an experienced Agile practitioner will aid your transition considerably, making it much smoother and even faster. So while self-learning will get you far, outside help might just get you there.
5. Use unified tools
Once you get Agile going in the whole company, the question of the project management tool will inevitably be raised. Some teams will want to have the same tools; others will claim their process is unique and requires a different approach. It might seem easier just to let everyone do what they will, but that will inevitably lead to a large headache later on. Following each team, progress and the overall company standing will become a burden. So make sure to have some sort of a unified system, or even better find a tool that is flexible enough to fit all the teams. My company enjoys using Eylean Board, as it allows creating different process steps for every team.
6. Fail fast and iterate again
Another mistake I see a lot of young Agile teams make is being afraid of failure. They spend a lot of time learning all of the rules, trying to make their first Sprint perfectly and still fail at the end. So instead you should accept that it is impossible to know every single thing from the beginning and learn by doing. After you fail once or twice, hold a retrospective, analyze and improve. This way you will not only learn Agile quicker but also create a process that works for you.
Lastly, like with any other project management approach, the ultimate thing you have to keep in mind to be successful is communication. You will need to do that with your team, your management, your clients and your stakeholders, without which there is no project to begin with. No matter your process, industry or practice, make sure to keep those communication lines open, and you will sure be on your way to success!
When starting a new process, making mistakes is inevitable. And this is particularly the case with Agile, where the rules are vague and often even non-existent. However, this should not discourage you from taking the practice on. But rather give you freedom to pave your own path and discover something great. So go ahead, try, fail and iterate!