Archives for August2013

5 Common Mistakes When Adopting Agile

Agile methodologies offer companies a lightweight framework to execute their software and other projects. It is therefore not a surprise that companies are increasingly looking to adopt agile as their preferred method of software development. Although the benefits to adopting agile are numerous, during the process some of the drawbacks emerge as well. In order to make sure that you do not make one of those mistakes when adopting agile, below is a quick rundown of some of the more common pitfalls that arise when adopting agile.

1. Lack of proper training and education

This is probably the most common mistake made by organizations hoping to adopt agile. The teams sometimes believe that they can cut corners by saddling the internal team with the responsibility of learning scrapes of agile and passing on the information to the members of the team. It is important to take into account that the team members are busy with their daily jobs, and might not have the time to ensure smooth adoption of agile. It depends on the situation, but it often makes sense to invest a bit of time into learning agile methodology of choice, or bring in experienced agile coaches and consultants.

2. The Silo syndrome

The Silo syndrome occurs when the evolvement of Agile is out of sync with what is practiced in the rest if the organization. The result is that different teams in the company are trying out and developing different methodologies and standards until there is outright confusion. While it is fine to start with a pilot team in an organization when adopting agile, the processes in the rest of the organization should not be ignored as well.

3. Abandoning other aspects of the business

This mistake in evident when the company ignores other areas of their business and focuses too much on their technology teams. While agile is often about software methodology, it is also about a shift in corporate culture as well as the building of infrastructure for the overall wellbeing of the company. Shift in corporate culture should not take place on Agile teams alone, it should also happen in other departments and offices in the company.

 4. Over-complicating the process

Agile adoption is a simple process that need not be complex. When there is an inclination to the introduction of new policies, additional process and extra layers of management, it can easily cause block adoption or at least decrease the adoption speed. When adopting agile, it makes sense to cut out the extra processes and policies, and make the process as simple as possible.

5. Failure to have proper infrastructure in place

Finally, when the company does not take into account the infrastructural changes needed to support scaling agile processes, it might be difficult to establish agile as the project management methodology for the organization. The infrastructure, including agile tools and the work processes, might have to be adjusted, especially as agile becomes the methodology of choice for the whole organization.

Therefore, if you are looking to adopt agile, make sure you do not make these mistakes – and good luck!


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Setting Up a Kanban Board

So, you have decided to start using Kanban. Since there are often a lot of questions on how to get started, here we provide a simple set of tips for someone just starting out with Kanban:

1. Decide whether you want to use digital or physical board

First of all, decide if you are going to use a digital or physical board. Digital boards or software – such as Eylean – have a lot of advantages over physical ones, but you should decide which one is best for you. If you need additional help, we have covered the main aspects of choosing the right board in this blog post on electronic vs. physical task boards.

2. Prepare a simple board structure

Once you decided on the right board for you, prepare a simple task board which consists of three columns: “To Do”, “Work in progress” and “Done”. This is the basic structure of Kanban you will use to sort your tasks and items. If you have a multi-stage process – for instance development and testing – you might split these processes into separate columns later on, but for now just start with a simple board for one stage of your process.

3. Set a work in progress (WIP) limit

One of the key aspects of Kanban is that the number of items in progress is limited and therefore no other item can be started until the existing items are completed. Therefore, you need to decide whether you want to allow some multitasking or not. If you decide to go without multitasking, you should add the WIP limit that is equal to the number of people on your team. If you want to add a bit of flexibility (most teams do), you should add the WIP limit by several items higher than there are members of your team.

4. Embrace the pull principle

The next important concept to grasp is the Pull principle. The idea behind the Pull principle is to make sure that the team members can choose the items to work on. It works in the following way. You put the task cards on the board, but you do not assign them to anybody. The team members pull the tasks which they would like to work on and are capable of working on, and start working on it.

5. Set up prioritizing and planning processes

Finally, make sure that you develop a process for item selection and prioritization on demand. One of the approaches to that is doing small planning meetings, when the team discusses and decides which of the items are the most valuable and should be done next. The planning meetings can be done when the number of items in the backlog reaches a certain number – for example, less than three. This will make sure that you will not over-plan – but will also not run out of the items in your backlog.

You can always evolve and adapt your board when you master the basics – but this checklist should help you started with Kanban. Good luck!

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