In Agile as in life, time is precious

In software development, time is a central concept, and delivering value as early as possible is a primary driver for the industry. Teams build products to save users precious time, and these tools are made in a prioritized fashion, mitigating waste.

Even though many teams use Agile frameworks to successfully fulfill that expectation, some detractors consider Agile a waste of time, often claiming that it's just a way of micro-managing developers and requires more time than working in a Waterfall model.

Let's explore this topic and try to find out if Agile frameworks are helpful or not.

Topics to check

  1. Agile is a Waste of Time

    a. What is Waste?

  2. Prevent Time Wasting

    a. Fix Your Daily Scrum

    b. INVEST in Your User Stories

  3. Adopt Appropriate Tools

    a. Choose Your Project Environment

    b. Install Some Add-ons

1. Agile is a Waste of Time

People complain about Agile in social media groups. There even exist some blog posts out there supporting the idea. And it is great to know there are places where people can express their dissent, as it sheds light on some reasons why people consider Agile a waste of time.

Consider this comment by a Reddit user:

Is it just me or does Agile seem to waste a lot of time?

Agile wastes a lot of time because people adopt an initial template for Agile (SCRUM, Kanban) and turn it into a mindless ritual without iterating it.

The comment suggests that some teams follow templates blindly instead of making them fit their needs while understanding the spirit behind their practices and events. That behavior will most definitely cause your team to waste their time.

a. What is Waste?

Specialists Mary and Tom Poppendieck defined seven types of waste in Agile management:

Partially done work - Tasks or user stories that are not entirely done cannot be shipped according to your Definition of Done.

How to fix this? Ensure that all team members understand and agree on the Definition of Done. Also, ensure prioritized tasks or user stories meet the Definition of Ready.

Extra features - Developing more stuff than what is required.

How to fix this? Have a clear product vision and perspective of the audience. It's also essential to prioritize the right tasks at the right project moment.

Relearning - Ignoring the knowledge of other team members and starting from scratch.

How to fix this? Leverage your Daily Stand-up meetings, so everyone knows if a team member needs help. A blocker for any team member blocks the whole project, so the entire team is responsible for solving it. This will also prevent working in silos.

Handoffs - The delay may occur when a task is handed to another person.

How to fix this? This is one of the hardest to prevent. Your safest bet is to have clearly defined workflows, roles, and a supporting system, so everybody can step in when needed.

Delays - Any lag in the delivery of any task, story, or feature.

How to fix this? The first method to prevent this involves a team with the required skill set for the project and external assistance. Be realistic about your team's capacity (or Velocity) and always communicate clear requirements and deadlines.

Task switching - When people pick up a new Task before completing the first one.

How to fix this? Having a dedicated team for the project is a good foundation. Then, make sure that the tasks are detailed and precise enough. Sometimes, collaborators may switch to work on a different job after facing a blocker, so spot and solve them as soon as possible.

Defects - The delivery of any feature that doesn't work as expected.

How to fix this? Aside from having a capable team and precise requirements, is essential to involve any Quality Assurance team. Whether developing software or any other project, it is vital to be constantly assessed by QA and any relevant stakeholders.

Waste in Agile

2. Prevent Time Wasting

We have learned about the types of waste in Agile and how to fix them. But there are also other ways to save some minutes that end up being entire hours at the end of the month.

All events should be time framed, and the limits must be respected by everyone. This also means that attendees should be familiar with the topics to be discussed, so no meeting time is wasted on going through generalities.

a. Fix Your Daily Scrum

One of the Scrum events that most teams seem to get wrong is the Daily Scrums. We have already written about how some users look for 'I hate daily scrums' in Google, reflecting the negative feelings of some professionals regarding the practice.

Most detractors seem to dislike dailies because their team never hits the 15-minute mark. It is well known amongst Agile practitioners that an excellent daily meeting shouldn't last more than that. Otherwise, it risks turning into a gathering where people share irrelevant details.

Besides respecting the timeframe, you can use this basic structure for effective daily stand-ups:

Greet everybody - Briefly introduce any new or notable attendees when needed.

Recap the last meeting - What was solved? What was not?

General announcements - Are there any changes to the project to be aware of?

Questions round - Learn what everybody is up to. The classic formula would be something like this:

  • What have you accomplished since the last session?

  • What are you currently working on?

  • Are there any blockers standing in your way?

Wrap-up - State the general progress expected for that day and some starting points for the next.

b. INVEST in your User Stories

When stories are clear as possible from the start, they're more prone to being done accurately. We suggest you spend as much time as possible perfecting how you create and refine your user stories. Always use the INVEST formula:

Independent. Meaning it won't become a blocker nor has dependencies on other Stories.

Negotiable. In case of being blocked or losing time-sensitive relevance, it can be reserved for later work cycles.

Valuable. It must add value by itself.

Estimable. The effort required for its completion is measurable.

Small. It should fit into a single sprint, iteration, or work cycle.

Testable. It must be tested before being released to production.

Dig deeper and learn to nail your user stories here.

Invest Formula

3. Adopt Appropriate Tools

Refining your Agile practices is easier when you use tools that support them. Environments such as Jira, Confluence, monday, or Trello can help your team agile their operations. These platforms are developed with the best practices in mind and can easily fit any project or team.

a. Choose Your Project Environment

Opting for the right project management tool is not an easy task. While most are tweaked to suit almost any purpose, some are designed to satisfy some specific needs.

Jira - This platform is heavily used by software developers, as it supports both Scrum and Kanban management. It's pretty easy to set a project, customize it with some exciting features and even automate it.

Jira is also great for keeping everything documented easily and can integrate with various add-ons for specific cases.

Confluence - The sister platform of Jira, Confluence is a great place to share internal and external knowledge. It has some valuable features for documentation and can be integrated with Jira and a bunch of add-ons.

If you need an environment where all your teams can only share information, Confluence might be your choice.

Monday - This is an excellent platform due to its simplicity and ease of adoption. The main difference between Jira and monday.com would be that the first appeals better to software developers, while the latter has proven popular amongst marketing, sales, HR, and operations teams.

Monday can also be integrated with several add-ons and offers a heavily customizable UI, ideal for teams of any size.

Trello - Definitely the most popular app to manage projects inside a board. Trello has proven helpful for millions of users thanks to its simple UX and customizable properties that can be configured to support several types of operations, even with a free account.

Trello can be enhanced with power-ups to better serve any specialized team.

b. Install Some Add-ons

We listed some of the most popular project management platforms. Their success, however, can also be attributed to how well they integrate with other apps. These are some that might help your team become more Agile:

Agile Retrospectives - The Agile Retrospectives app has been around for a while, helping teams that want to strengthen their continuous improvement practices. It will help you run highly customizable Retrospective sessions, such as choosing between pre-loaded templates or creating your own.

You can even run an asynchronous session: Just configure it and share the link with your team, so they can input their ideas. This app is available on Jira, Confluence, monday.com, and Trello.

TeamPulse - A team with a healthy mood is a team more prone to communicate, collaborate and deliver quality products. So no matter what team you have, TeamPulse helps you assess their mood and gather feedback.

TeamPulse has an engaging UI that lets you define the aspects you want the team to assess and run health check sessions in four simple steps. Don't miss the chance to build trust among your colleagues and try TeamPulse for Jira.

Scrum Poker - Our last recommendation is an app that can help any team to reach more accurate estimates. Based on the popular estimating method of the same name, ScrumPoker is excellent for assisting teams to have those conversations and keep track, making it easy to integrate with all your project's data.

It lets you choose five card sets that emulate the most popular estimation techniques. It's excellent to avoid group thinking and has great integration features with Jira. Try it for Confluence or Jira.

In Conclusion

Agile isn't wasteful on its own. The wrong practice of Agile can cause waste, and it's crucial to identify its class before effectively mitigating it.

Remember that understanding the spirit behind the Agile frameworks is vital to benefit from them most. Don't blame the process: Look for ways to improve it.

Be respectful of everybody's time. Both when it comes to meetings and when talking about deliveries and deadlines. Not doing so can easily disrupt any workflow.


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