What does agile feel like?

I was formally introduced to 'agile' process in 2008, when I found and read Agile Web Development with Rails. The notion of sitting next to user's of your software before, during, and after development begins made sense to me. I had been doing that for 5+ years at that point by talking with users in a county government, and building solutions that met those needs, and then having the luxurious ability to check with those users to see how effective a solution was. I became addicted to the continuous feedback.

Since then, I've been a part of many agile teams, and I've had the opportunity to work with a few organizations on "agile transformation" projects; which basically just means teaching an organization how to operate in a more focused and iterative fashion.

Information on agile is easy to find across the web, and I've seen many flavors of agile practice - some being more right than others, and some being more effective than others, and I encourage teams to focus on what works for them. What I've found is: what works for teams is more about feel than some logical notion of correct agile practice. So, I try not to be too prescriptive, but just share with teams what agile feels like.

  • Monday
    • Planning (groom and point stories from the Backlog)
  • Daily
    • Standup (what did you do since last standup? what will you do til the next one? any obstacles?)
    • New vs. Support Work?
    • Ensure all works exists in Tracker
      • Update stories often and with enough context to take action (think of your pair and/or your future self)
    • Schedule time and Focus on one item at a time (limit Work-in-progress)
    • Renegotiate your commitments (only one thing can be top priority)
    • Communicate outward in 360ยบ (respond to those who might be waiting, contact those who need to prepare)
  • Friday
    • Demo (demo working software openly for the team)
    • Retro (happy/okay/sad)

For me, an agile cadence should feel directed, but clear; potentially overwhelming (if your Backlog is growing), but with a sustained focus on high-value items as early as possible. Most importantly, a good agile cadence lets a team feel responsive and in control over an ever-changing priorities; rather than out-of-control and reactive. As with most organizations, there is always more work to do than time/resources available. Therefore, agile should provide a sense of effective filtering (focusing on what matters), and enough of an opinionated stance to focus on one thing at a time. Trust that small bits of focused user-centered work will provide value to said users, carving the shortest distance between ideation and implementation.

About Afomi

Afomi is the digital sandbox of Ryan Wold, who is always evolving this to better share inspirations and aspirations.

About Ryan

Ryan is a systems-thinking Product Developer and Designer who practices agile, test-driven, and lean continuous software delivery, while solving problems with people.