Agile is up in the air! Agile is everywhere! And agile is here and there!
Agile methodologies are the talk of the town and words like scrum, Kanban, lean…… are the buzz words on the internet and every project management article, especially in the IT and software industry.
Put simply, agile software development consists of developing and releasing the software in small increments and in an iterative manner by considering the feedback of the end user/customer and adapting to changes.
Incremental software development methods have existed ever since the 1960s. But it is in 2001 that the first use of the word “Agile” was coined. It is based on the Agile Manifesto released in February 2001:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Scrum, Kanban and Extreme programming are some of the frameworks that come under the Agile methodologies umbrella. Ever since, Agile methodologies have not only contributed to IT project management but has also permeated into non-IT or non-software projects. In fact, the truth is that many of the interesting ideas in Agile methodologies come from outside the IT or software development industry. For example, the word scrum was coined as a term in product development where it was used first before being used heavily in software development. Lean and the Kanban methods was used to manage production lines in the auto industry, especially in Toyota who pioneered this method by studying supermarkets. Thanks to their flexibility and simplicity, which are their greatest strength, they caught up in other industries, especially in the software development industry. Hence agile methodologies are not the properties of the software domain!
So, if you are working in the creative industry (communications, design or PR agency), in a marketing company, in the sales department or maybe you are managing programs in a government institution Agile methodologies can make your professional life easier. You can use the following key agile practices which stem from the agile manifesto in general and from the main agile frameworks in particular:
- Create a list of priority work items (also called backlog in the scrum framework). Creating a list of items will help you and your team decide which items to work on.
- Write tickets or short descriptions in a few sentences (also called user stories in scrum framework) about the work to be done. User stories are often written on index cards or sticky notes and arranged on walls or tables to facilitate planning and discussion. This will allow you and your team members to agree on how to accomplish the work item mentioned in the list.
- Display your boards or charts on walls so that the team and stakeholders can not only track the progress but also have a global view of the work to be done. For example, you can inspire from the Kanban framework to create a Kanban board which includes columns such as to do, in progress, on hold and done. You can list the item to be accomplished in the to do column. And then move it forward or put it under other columns as the work progresses or according to the situation.
- Set a short period (usually 2 to 3 weeks or more) to do the basic unit of work (user stories) and get it done in the allotted time. In Scrum framework, we use the word “sprint” which are basically a short and sustainable burst of work activity.
- Hold daily standup meetings of 5-10 minutes where everyone on the team can check progress, discuss challenges and find solutions. One team member should talk at a time, so that everyone listens. The speaker can be given a prop or an item to hold while speaking so that other team members know it is his turn and they must listen. Daily stand-up meeting allows discussions to be crisp, concise and to the point and therefore ends quickly creating more time to do the work.
- Organize retrospective meetings when the sprint or the set period of work is over to discuss what went well and what didn’t and how could it be improved. During and after the meeting you can improve on what went well and discard the practices that don’t fit in your work place.
The above-mentioned methodologies can help you improve collaboration and communication among your team members. Often tech teams apply and use the agile frameworks very precisely by meticulously using each agile practice, including the above ones. But as a non-IT or non-tech team, don’t hesitate to tinker and iterate the practices to adapt them according to the requirements of your business or office.