Nowadays, organizations have widely adopted Agile best practices to accelerate value delivery. Agile teams demonstrate greater efficiency, produce superior products, and achieve higher customer satisfaction than traditional development teams.
Why Should Organizations Implement Agile?
The Agile approach greatly emphasizes teamwork, with collaborative efforts being fundamental to its success. Agile teams function cohesively, reaping the benefits of working together and achieving a higher project success rate. This is made possible through the team’s exceptional communication skills, allowing seamless collaboration.
Implementing Agile best practices also leads to increase efficiency, as it provides teams with the necessary tools to break down complex projects into more manageable work items that can be tackled easily. This approach ensures that team members are always engaged and motivated, with immediate feedback from short iterations as a constant reminder of the progress achieved.
Moreover, the Agile approach fosters a sense of ownership among team members, as they can witness the results of their efforts in tangible ways. This serves as a powerful motivator, keeping team members committed to achieving the overarching objectives of the project.
What Are Agile Best Practices?
Agile best practices are a set of guidelines and techniques that are commonly used by Agile teams to achieve maximum efficiency and productivity in the delivery process.
These practices include regular meetings, self-organizing teams, and adopting a flexible and adaptive approach to change. Overall, Agile best practices aim to create a culture of continuous improvement and feedback, which helps teams deliver high-quality value quickly and efficiently.
Scrum Project Management
Scrum is often regarded as one of the most popular Agile frameworks. Here are some of the recommended Agile best practices for implementing Scrum within an Agile environment:
Foster a collaborative environment. A recommended approach towards effective Scrum implementation is to foster a collaborative environment where the product backlog and product vision are co-created by the development team and stakeholders. This ensures a shared understanding and alignment between the two parties, thereby enhancing the chances of project success.
Hold daily stand-ups. Stand-up meetings are short meetings of team members to discuss project progress. These meetings are designed to be kept to a maximum of 15 minutes to ensure they are efficient and productive. Incorporating stand-up meetings into product or project development is an effective way to monitor progress and keep all team members informed of updates.
Use a daily burn down chart to track the progress of sprints. The burn down charts are a graphical representation of the work that has been accomplished in relation to the total work remaining against a given time frame.
Set communication guidelines for teams. Developing a communication strategy that includes essential guidelines for teams can ensure smooth and effective communication. This practice can be particularly valuable for remote teams as it promotes transparency in reaching team goals.
To have a better view, let’s map some best Agile practices to planning, execution and monitoring phases in project management.
Agile Best Practices for Planning
Plan on multiple levels and prioritize customer collaboration
One of the central Agile practices is to plan on multiple organizational levels going from the strategic initiatives all the way down to the individual tasks. As opposed to having one big planning phase, in Agile, teams spread it alongside the project’s course and plan only for the short-term. Once a deliverable is released to the customer, the planning process can start again.
For the Agile planning process to function correctly, management in organizations needs to adopt decentric authority. This means that team members should be encouraged to create their own plans based on some hints only.
Use time ranges and probability
Traditionally, project managers look to predict the future based on deterministic estimations. When talking about a knowledge work environment, this approach is hugely flawed as things move quickly, and the work is rarely the same. Therefore, promising that a deliverable will be done by a specific date isn’t realistic.
To tackle this problem, Agile teams use time ranges and attach a specific probability based on their historical data. For example, it’s much more realistic to say that a feature will be done between 5 and 8 days with an 85% probability than to make exact date promises.
Enable transparency by connecting planning and execution
We could create a workflow where we plan projects and one where we visualize the individual tasks that every team member is responsible for.
This will ensure that we have visibility of the whole picture, easily track the progress, and react to changes on time. What’s important here is the idea of full transparency in the process and measuring plans against their actual execution in real-time.
As a result, we shall create an open environment and improve the collaboration on the project between team members and other relevant stakeholders.
Agile Best Practices for Execution
Even though workflow visualization isn’t something hard to accomplish, it is one of the most effective Agile practices.
We can use Kanban boards to do this in practice. A good practice is to apply the lean management technique “value stream mapping” to see how your team delivers customer value. With this information in mind, you can start optimizing your workflow by removing wasteful activities, re-structuring your board based on customer needs, spotting and alleviating bottlenecks, etc.
We can also apply Kanban board across the entire organization when building up an agile organization or doing Agile transformation.
Limit WIP and Manage Queues
WIP stands for Work In Progress and is one of the essential measures in the Agile world. It represents work that has been started but not finished. Without generated any outcomes, meaning that a lot of work in progress is a waste.
That’s why a useful Agile practice that comes from Kanban is to limit WIP to reduce waste and speed up the flow of the process. Limiting WIP happens easily with the help of a Kanban board where we can restrict how many work items can reside in a work stage/column at any given time.
Don’t form Long queues, successful Agile teams manage queues in their process instead of tracking timelines. We can restrict how many items can enter a waiting queue from a pull system only when there is capacity available.
As a result, foundations of a stable and predictable value delivery process is formed.
Reduce Batch Size of Work Items
Reducing batch sizes also helps teams decrease the possibility of having many work items linger in the work process for too long. This facilitates flow and enables timely customer delivery of what has been promised.
Agile Best Practices for Monitoring
Sync Progress Daily
This usually happens due to the daily standup where the entire team stands in front of a physical or digital Kanban board and engages in discussions about everything that has transpired since the last meeting.
The main objective here is for everybody to give a quick status update, so there is a mutual awareness of who’s working on what and how the team is tracking against the plan. Furthermore, team members might need to escalate impediments to their flow in this meeting so necessary actions could be undertaken as fast as possible.
Track and Measure Flow Metrics
Flow is the pinnacle to a stable process and predictable project delivery, so measuring flow metrics in Agile is another best practice.
Some of the most important flow metrics to track are WIP, cycle time, and throughput. Together, they will allow you to determine what can be done in the process and how long it will take, so you can better match demand with existing capabilities.
Engage in Regular Review
It’s all about continuous improvement by implementing regular feedback loops for reviewing work processes. Making organization to be a learning organization is very important.
This can be done by facilitating Retrospective at the end of every sprint. The Scrum Team discusses what went well during the Sprint, what problems it encountered, and how those problems were (or were not) solved. Finally, They vote and identify the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness. The most impactful improvements are addressed as soon as possible. They may even be added to the Sprint Backlog for the next Sprint.
Isabel Leung and Howie Sung are the co-founders of The Agile Eagle, the premiere Scrum, and Agile training and coaching organization.
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