Implementing Agile: 10 Tips
The term Agile does not refer to a single methodology, but is a container term that brings together several frameworks. The frameworks are diverse and differ in their principles and techniques, among them we find, for example, Scrum and AgilePM.
The word Agile is generally associated with the concept of progress and momentum and is now so widespread that the ability to work Agile and having an Agile mindset are required of most professionals, however, the definition is not unambiguous:
- Agile and Agility have many different definitions and interpretations
- Many professionals work in an Agile environment, this ensures that Agile techniques are applied but not that an Agile mindset is adopted
- It is often thought that an Agile approach can be better adapted to uncertainties, but one does not know how to start
10 Tips for implementing Agile
In this article we will look at 10 techniques that can be implemented to adopt high-level Agile practices and techniques in one’s daily work. These techniques are simple on a conceptual level but require a great deal of emotional commitment because they imply changes in behaviour and work habits.
These practical tips will help with the first phases of implementing an Agile methodology or can be complementary to existing Agile techniques.
- Decide on acceptance criteria
- Results, not business
- Complete work with greater value first
- Break circularity
- Stay motivated
- Deliver on time
- Request and give feedback, not criticism
- Do not lose track
- Quality collaboration
Decide on acceptance criteria
From the beginning to the end of an Agile initiative, we have to ask ourselves whether the experiment worked; if the answer is yes, we can work on these premises. If, on the other hand, the answer is negative, experiments are carried out until we arrive at the outcomes that work.
As with any experiment, it is necessary to identify criteria for success and failure before starting. To do this, one has to make a list of what can be considered positive and what must be considered negative, thus deciding on the criteria. A good way to identify criteria is to imagine positive and negative scenarios and how one should react to each of them.
Results, not business
“Being Agile” requires the development of a new focus: one must concentrate on new goals, not on new tasks. To do this, it is a good practice to start each day with an idea of the goal you want to achieve and how this succeeds in giving satisfaction to yourself, colleagues and customers.
To be able to imagine these results, use this checklist:
- What decisions were made today?
- What agreements have been concluded?
- How did the stakeholders agree to participate?
- What work satisfied the stakeholders?
- What did you create that did not exist yesterday?
- What did you conclude today?
Complete work with greater value first
Use a short list to identify where it will be most useful to spend your time: this technique allows you to limit the ’emotional’ implications and focus on business value.
Ask as many people as possible the following questions:
- Which task has the most imminent deadline?
- Who will be most annoyed if you do not do this work?
- Which work is necessary to be able to continue in the next steps?
- Which task would solve my biggest worry/problem/challenge?
These questions help to identify the most valuable work but, for double-checking, it is always necessary to select priorities using two factors:
- Which task requires input that is not yet available?
- Which work is easiest, so do I want to do it?
Providing a solution that is able to evolve and change over time is one of the biggest challenges of Agile methodologies, as interconnections prevent a linear journey from taking place. You always refer to external inputs to facilitate your work and at the same time you are asked to provide information and data to help other professionals.
Dividing the work into smaller, independent fragments helps to avoid stalling or risking being delayed because you do not have the necessary input to move on to the next steps.
Innovate: find new options
To create an evolving solution, you need to be creative and have new ideas to rely on. A quick way to get a new perspective is to ask yourself: “how would the items I am working on be used by different people, or how would they be used in different situations?”
- How would current and potential customers use this implementation differently?
- How would offices in different locations use it?
- How would professionals with different levels of digital skills and competences (high, medium and low) use it?
- How would customers who want high/medium/low level self-service use it?
To apply Agile, one must remain motivated throughout the different iterations of change. One must remember all that has been achieved, not what is still missing.
To succeed in this, it is necessary:
- To keep the work divided into small parts: less time, less dependencies, less effort
- To use visual tools to emphasise results
Deliver on time
There is a rule that helps to divide the work while maintaining order:
DRAFT > UPDATE > FINAL VERSION
Time is needed to:
- Create the first draft, involving the thinking, research, design and development of this first piece of work
- Have others review the draft and get their feedback so that an updated version can be created
- Review any feedback on the updated version before releasing a final version
- All of these activities take longer than planned: everyone tends to assume that once the first step is completed, it is all over!
Request and give feedback, not criticism
Ask specific questions that can help you in the development of the new version and at the same time, when giving feedback, answer the same questions:
- What is useful and should I develop better?
- What is good but can be improved?
- What changes should I make?
- What should I add?
- What should I remove because it is not relevant?
Do not lose track
With so many small goals forming the solution, it is a risk to get lost in all the things that are being created. It is important to regularly check that there is still time to reach the final goal and not just the ‘small wins’.
To do this, you need to have a macro-vision: think about the destination and the bigger picture you are working towards. Describe how your work is contributing to this, if there is no correlation it is probably because you are going off course!
Agile requires flexibility and innovation, which in turn require new sources of information and new perspectives. To enhance creativity and increase the network to have more choice on who to collaborate with, is recommended:
- Finding subject matter experts to increase the depth of research
- Identify complementary skills and knowledge and connect with thought leaders in the areas in which you work
- Build your credibility so that other professionals may want to collaborate
Invest in your Agile skills using the techniques learnt in the study of frameworks.
Embracing, adopting and improving these Agile behaviours, attitudes and habits will help professionals cope with all the changes that are affecting organisations, their pace and workload.
Original article published in 2021 and reproduced with kind permission of APMG International. Translated and edited by QRP International in 2024.