Don’t Let Setbacks Derail Your Agile Project

Take Advantage of these 3 Techniques to Get Your Agile Project Back on Track

We’re all learning new ways to live and work in a virtual world. Many have published articles and delivered webinars explaining how to use available web tools so everything functions more smoothly. These tools may make facilitating meetings and classroom training easier, but without changing your practices, they may not be enough to keep your agile on project schedule.

When my agile project needs some love and attention, I have successfully used these 3 techniques to get back on track:

  1. Add optional 15 minute meeting after Daily Standup
  2. Take advantage of Retrospective 
  3. Rethink Velocity

Add Optional 15 Minute Meeting After Daily Standup

I’ve always tried to stick to the 10 minute max Daily Standup rule. In fact, I often tell my teams that “Daily Standup is the best 10 minutes of your day.” Why? Because that’s the only time each day when everyone is together in 1 place. 

Daily Standup is the best time for the Product Owner and Scrum Master to ensure everyone is focusing on the right stuff. It’s also the best time for the Development Team to gain clarification and resolution to open issues and burning questions.

If the team has issues that cannot be resolved in the 10 minute time box, Scrum implies that plans should be made to continue the discussion at some other point in the day. With virtual teams, it’s easier to get distracted. So, at the next Daily Standup, we often hear that those involved did not meet and the affected Stories have not progressed. As this happens with more and more Stories in the Sprint Backlog, the Sprint (and therefore project schedule) may get derailed.

We all have a tendency to work on the easy stuff and ignore the tough stuff when we’re isolated at home. When I work with virtual teams, I often add an optional 15 minute meeting after Daily Standup, so the Scrum Master and Product Owner can ensure the necessary conversations take place with the Development Team. 

By creating a separate meeting, you don’t disrespect the intent of Daily Standup. By making the meeting optional, you limit attendance to only required team members. 

The caveat: Just because you schedule the meeting doesn’t mean you must use the time every day. Only take advantage of the time box when the team really has an issue to discuss. The additional meeting is NOT an excuse to extend standup to 25 minutes.

Take Advantage of Retrospective

Relationships change when teams become virtual, because we communicate differently. Conversations happen less frequently, and most of those conversations are messages rather than video or phone calls. It’s easier to ignore each other when uncomfortable issues arise. 

Retrospective is the best time to talk about what’s working, what’s not working and to brainstorm better ways to work together. At the end of every Sprint, use Retrospective time to openly and honestly reflect on what’s affecting team productivity. 

If your team does not conduct Retrospective at the end of every Sprint, reinstate the practice now. Address small issues before they become big ones and further derail your agile project.

Rethink Velocity

New virtual teams must overcome many obstacles. In addition to the issues I’ve already discussed, your team may be faced with network issues, VPN issues, access issues, environment issues and problems with new tools. It’s naive to think that Velocity won’t be affected.

It’s been a few Sprints since we all became virtual, so you probably can see a new normal Velocity emerging. If this new Velocity is significantly lower than before, you need to reset expectations with your management and other stakeholders.

Recalculate estimated time to completion and project status. Help your organization understand exactly where your project stands in relation to where you’re supposed to be. That way, you can negotiate more realistic timelines. Maybe reducing scope or redefining the MVP could be the answer, so your customers can still get what they need.

The Key is Communication

To remain a productive team, open and honest and constructive communication between members is required. Address important issues as soon as possible. Extend Daily Standup for those who need additional help with requirements and technology. Take advantage of Retrospective and find creative ways to work together. If Velocity is affected, reset expectations and scope right away.

What agile techniques is your team using to remain happy and productive?

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn

 

Cynthia Kahn
CynthiaK@gsd.guru
503.799.5500