When do you know you are Agile?

I got to thinking, how do you know when you are agile?  The following is a list I came up with in a brainstorm.

Optimizing the work

This is about getting the most out of the work that is being done. Most of these are covered by Scrum and Kanban frameworks. I consider this to be the start of being Agile, but not the end game.

  • Backlog is in priority order
  • Backlog is groomed regularly so that items can be worked on straight away
    • Items are of a reasonable size
    • Details added, but not details on how to accomplish the task, but the outcome desired
    • Acceptance criteria
    • Discussed with Team
  • Team picks items off backlog/Sprint backlog (self organizes)
    • Items are Not assigned
    • Not grouped by project
    • Everyone works on everything
    • No handovers as not required
  • There is a greater goal to work towards for the Sprint
    • Not just work to get things done, a real goal
  • Ability to change with little to no disruption to flow, although productivity may suffer
    • Eg loss of a team member to a project.
    • On leave
  • Definition of done exists and is adhered to
    • Determined by whole team
  • Team has principles to guide work along with goal
  • Standards change frequently as they improve
    • Standards are not fixed but reviewed and questioned regularly
  • No silos/roles (cross functional)

Improvement and growth

The second important thing that I think when you become Agile is that you take care of your team’s and the members of the team’s ability to grow. You no longer just do the work. You are trying to find ways to increase the skill set of your team. The team itself becomes a learning team. Mistakes are seen as opportunities to see gaps in knowledge and teach.

The team itself becomes a learning team.

  • The Team measures in such a way it can determine if there is improvement
  • Everyone continuously looks are doing things better (continuous improvement as often as possible – daily)
    • Small (save 2 seconds) to large improvement
    • Improving quality
    • Reducing waste including processes.
    • Learn to see/Open mind
    • Optimizing flow
      • Work is done by single piece flow.
      • Improve cycle time
      • Limiting work in progress
        • Getting things done before moving onto the next thing. Ie no multitasking.
          • For this to work, task sizing must be optimal
  • Experimentation encouraged with measurable results
  • Self learning is encouraged
  • Team reflects on the work done regularly
  • Information is shared openly.
    • Team teaches/trains each other
    • Skills and techniques are shared
    • Information is shared
    • Lack of knowledge is seen as an opportunity to teach, not berate
    • If someone doesn’t “get it” change teaching technique. Everyone learns differently
  • I intend… very well. Members do not have to ask permission to do something. They just need to state what they are doing and be trusted to do it. See “Turn the ship around
  • Problems are seen as challenges, not issues
  • Autonomy, mastery and purpose fulfilled

Teamwork and Emotional Stability

The final section is where the Team and its members feel safe to express their differences and those differences are explored rather than suppressed.

  • Team is happy.
  • No blame
  • No fear of failure – fails frequently (means we are pushing the limits, and learns from the failure)
  • Trust within Team
    • Can openly discuss without being shot down
    • No idea killers. Ideas are explored – even the crazy ones
      • Experiment to rule in or out on merit, rather than rash judgements

This is my list of what I think being Agile is. Doing Scrum or Kanban or SAFe or any other framework alone does not make you Agile in my opinion. Learning and having an environment where you can explore, try, fail and discuss is also just as, if not more important. Myself, I am not there yet, but I am trying. It is also possible that this is an impossible goal. That may be so for some organisations, but my thinking is that you need to keep trying. It is the trying that is important, not the achieving.

It is most likely possible that when all the above is achieved, there will be more criteria. This is not suppose to be a list that must be adhered to to say that you are Agile, but a guide to help you get there.

At least in my opinion.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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