Project Management

How Flexible is your Agile?

From the Taking the Plunge Blog
In case you actually read this description, the beginning of the blog is about preparing for the PMP exam. It then evolved into maintaining my credential. After taking a break for a few years, I'm back and will be blogging about project management, in general, and probably a bit of agile on a regular basis.

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Categories: Agile

At the end of our last sprint, I switched my mobile team from Scrum-like to Kanban-like.

Why would I do that, and what does it even mean?  Both good questions.

My mobile team has five developers, two testers, one designer, three products with both iOS and Android apps, and three product owners.  Each of the product owners have other products they are responsible for, and these other products have a higher priority.  I am fortunate if all three product owners are able to attend the stand-up meetings we hold three days a week. 

When I took over, there was no velocity, and it became clear, fairly quickly, there wasn't likely to be.  I have been able to hold retrospectives, but sprint reviews are basically demos in the Friday stand-up, and sprint planning was the first stand-up meeting of the sprint.  These were 30 minute meetings.  Having developers split across three time zones didn't help.  The result of sprint planning was, usually, that unfinished work was rolled into the new sprint, and a few new stories were added.

I'm sure there's a strict Scrum advocate whose head just exploded, somewhere.

As a team, we decided to switch to a Kanban-like process; this is more in line with how the team works.  The product owners manage their backlog.  When they are ready, they move their story cards into the To-Do column, which makes them available for the developers to work on.  I've got a sneaking suspicion that we may encounter some issues with WIP, but we'll work it out.

We'll continue to hold retrospectives and evaluate our process as we go.  If it doesn't work, we can go back to sprints. 

Overall, I like the direction we're taking.  I was struggling to figure out how to make the team more Scrum-like.  It wasn't until I began to understand more about how the team works that I realized it makes more sense to make the process fit the team than it does to try and make the team fit the process.  I work with a great team, and I need to make sure they know that.

There are other products, in our company, that have dedicated teams.  They're doing well using Scrum.  If I had three different dedicated teams for my three products, I'd probably be running them all on Scrum, still. 

I want to be clear about something.  I am not a proponent of customizing an approach before you even try it.  Scrum, out of the box, can work great.  As you use it, you may identify constraints and will need to choose to either eliminate the constraint or change the process.

Being agile isn't about strictly using Scrum, or Kanban, or some other flavor of agile.  There are no methodologies or frameworks mentioned in the Agile Manifesto.  An important part of agile is experimenting; learning how to deliver value more quickly than you've done in the past.  Where you end up may not look the same as where you start, and that's okay.

Where are you on your Agile journey?

Posted on: February 21, 2017 11:33 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

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The key is delivery - strict adherence to an approach for the sake of it, over the needs of the team and customer seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

What your trying is good. I wish you the best. Maybe you'll pass along an update in the future.

Thank you. I plan to provide occasional updates as things unfold. Doing this will help me to document how things progress and evaluate the effectiveness of the changes we make.

Ain't that the truth. Deadlines are not realistic so its more rolling sprints to try and catch up sometimes.

Great article. I'm trying to implement Agile in my organization from Waterfall. I'm glad that you shared about the flexibility of Agile and how Scrum is managed.
Some questions:
1) Do you use JIRA for your project management?
2) What other tools do you suggest we implement for an Agile environment?
3) Are they scenarios in your experience that Agile does not work?

1) We use Jira for our web and mobile development/projects. For other projects, I only use Jira when requested, but it is becoming more common as more people use Jira to track their daily work.

2) Tools specifically for Agile? Agile boards in Jira. There are Jira add-ons I have looked at, but haven't received approval for, yet, that only work with Jira Agile. I would focus on your process, first, and then find tools to fit.

3) If you look at the agile manifesto and the supporting principles, there are aspects of both that can be applied to any project (some, more than others). The same cannot be said for the many flavors of Agile. Make changing to a flavor of agile an informed decision - research the flavors and start with one that fits with the aspects of your company that you are not trying to change.

From a project management perspective, I would not use Scrum, for example, on any of my SAP upgrades/implementations. Agile ASAP is available, but it is really a hybrid waterfall/agile approach.

From a organizational perspective, making an agile transformation does not work when your organization is not willing to face its flaws. It will expose inefficiencies and increase the potential for conflict. You also don't want your first attempt to be a big, high profile project, or a project where no failure is acceptable. One school of thought on Agile is that it fails fast, meaning that you find out what doesn't work, quickly, and fix it, instead of waiting for one big push to deliver everything and finding things wrong.

Does this answer your questions? Let me know if you have more.

Thanks Aaron, great article!

Good article. I take heart that others find it difficult to cut over to strictly Agile. My management talks about Agile without actually understanding it... well, they do the same for project management in general. I think most PMs just adapt and try their best to bring in best practices slowly with the intention of teaching others eventually.

Thanks for sharing your experience on this Aaron!

You are correct Agile is not about a methodology, I see it more like a way to think. You adjust the method to the team, that is Agile

Thanks for sharing your experience on this Aaron!

Every situation present unique challenges and that's why the manifesto doesn't dictate any specific methodology or framework. If rolling sprints work for you and you are able to deliver quality with speed, than why not.
Thanks Aaron for a great article.

Dear Aaron
Interesting your perspective on the topic: "How Flexible is your Agile?"

Thanks for sharing

Important point to remember:
"it makes more sense to make the process fit the team than it does to try and make the team fit the process"

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