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Five signs your team isn’t really Agile

Mark Goode

Adopting an Agile approach to software development can transform your productivity and the way your teams work. From the outside, breaking down the process into small, manageable chunks, and always keeping one eye on the goal of producing the software the end user requires makes perfect sense. But while it’s all very well telling everyone you’re adopting an Agile approach, if your development process is still dogged by backlogs and a lack of communication, it might be time to examine more closely what’s actually occurring.

1 - Is team communication effective?

Implementing a framework will help your team work collaboratively and more effectively. One of the most popular frameworks is Scrum, which allows individuals to work together following simple principles in order to address complex products. Working jointly towards a common goal whilst using individual team members’ skills is really the backbone of this philosophy. If communication between team members is poor, or individuals don’t understand what other team members are doing, this needs to be addressed. One way to tackle this issue is to create scenarios that inspire and facilitate communication, whilst giving teams the space and respect to work autonomously.

2 - The never-ending meeting

Of course, Agile principles create space for daily team briefings. However, when these transform from updates about plans for the day into lengthy technical discussions, their point is lost. If something needs talking through at greater length, it’s best to move the conversation to email.

3 - Let the goals tell the story

Agile’s focus on “stories” – the features that the end user requires from the software – can prevent projects becoming overwhelming. However, if your team starts counting the number of stories they’ve ticked off, rather than thinking about success in terms of the end user, then one of the key facets of Agile has been lost. Frame goals in terms of the final software, rather than adding up how many stories each team has achieved.

4 - Little by little

We’ve already touched on how breaking down development into small chunks is a key component of an Agile philosophy – the idea is that it mitigates procrastination, because no task is too unwieldy. But if the person responsible for dividing and handing out work is not adhering to this principle, this will create backlogs.

5 - Always improve

One of Agile’s most important aspects is the notion of continuous improvement. Reviews of recent work and planning for the next stages are vital to this. Plan sensibly for the next “sprint” of work, taking into account the needs of team members and stakeholders. Review that sprint when it’s finished, identifying what may need to change.

To be truly Agile, a team must be able to be flexible, collaborative and not afraid to experiment. If you can see your teams are allegedly Agile, yet not performing well, work towards creating a culture that promotes communication, flexibility and a willingness to embrace change.

Read our related blog: Motivating IT professionals

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