Questions you have about Agile but were too afraid to ask
By: Tammy Ruscitto
Buzzwords. Sometimes they get a bad rap for a good reason. They get used and abused by people who want you to think they know something special. “Epics, Sprints, Iterations, Release Trains.” (Are we in the Railroad Olympics now?)
There’s no need for you to nod along as others drop these buzzwords, hoping that no one knows you have no idea what they are talking about. Not everyone is intimate with the joys of working in an agile environment—yet. The approach isn’t widely taught in schools and the workforce is as diverse as ever. So we are here to say, you are not alone!
There is no such thing as a stupid question, and that has never been truer than when it comes to Agile. Allow us to take the mystery out of the wonderful world of Agile.
Here’s a short list of questions about Agile that you may have been too afraid to ask!
What does it mean to be agile?
No one will be making you run cone drills around the office. It’s not that kind of agility. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was written in 2001 by a group of seventeen people that referred to themselves as the “Agile Alliance.”
The “Alliance” defines Agile as “the ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment.” The Agile Manifesto emphasizes the value of:
1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
4. Responding to change by following a plan
Agile methodologies are frameworks that organizations can use to put Agile into practice.
Why should my organization be agile?
Using an Agile methodology allows your organization to quickly respond to change and to rapidly add value. Imagine you are at an event that is hosting a big meal at the end of the day, but around midday, everyone starts to get a little hungry. A snack sure would hit the spot!
Consider Agile as your midday snack! The traditional waterfall method left little room for change and typically didn’t provide value to the customer until the end of the project. Agile is an iterative approach that allows you to give your customers small bits of value throughout the process. After all, we don’t want our customers to get HANGRY!
What is a Value Stream?
Value streams are the steps that an organization uses to implement solutions to provide a continuous flow of value to the customer. Value streams take the perspective of the stakeholder. Rather than organizing around the work that needs to be done, we organize around what our customers want.
What does Value Stream Management mean?
Value Stream Management are principles, tools, and practices that allow for a value stream delivery system.
What is MVP?
There is no GOAT in Agile, but there is an MVP. A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is an early version of a solution used to test a business hypothesis. Building an MVP allows business owners to provide feedback with minimal cost.
What does a SCRUM master do?
A SCRUM master doesn’t have to play rugby, but they need to be tough! A SCRUM master is a leader/coach for an Agile Team. SCRUM Masters educate and coach teams on Agile methodologies and help to ensure the agreed-upon process, using goals that can be completed within defined time periods called “sprints,” is being followed.
What is an Agile Release Train?
Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are long-lived agile teams composed of smaller agile teams. ARTs are organized according to business functionality with the goal of delivering value at the enterprise level. ALL ABOARD!!!!
What does it mean to manage products instead of projects?
Product managers drive the development of products and the lifecycle of the product from beginning to end. They are also accountable for the Product Roadmap. Project managers direct projects that have been approved and developed, with a defined beginning and end.
What does it mean to be LEAN?
No one is going to show up to your desk with a scale or measure your BMI, but you may be asked to be LEAN! LEAN originated in automobile manufacturing but continues to be adopted by different industries. LEAN methodology is a way of optimizing the resources of your organization to create value for the customer. It is based on continuous improvement and respect for people.
The five LEAN principles are:
1. Identify value
2. Map the value stream
3. Create Flow
4. Establish Pull
5. Seek Perfection
What are epics, features, and stories?
Are we writing books here? Not quite, we are simply putting a label on the type of work we are looking at. An epic is a large body of work that can be broken down into specific tasks (stories).
A feature is a piece of functionality that fulfills a stakeholder’s need. A story is a brief description of desired functionality written in the user’s language.
How do I use a Kanban board?
A Kanban board is an agile project management tool used to help plan work, limit WIP (work in progress) and maximize flow. Kanban means “visual signal” in Japanese.
Components of a Kanban board are:
1. Cards: visual signals representing tasks
2. Columns: representation of different stages of a workflow (e.g., requested, in progress, complete)
3. Swimlanes: horizontal lanes that help to separate different types of work
4. Work-in-progress limits
5. Commitment point
6. Delivery point
How do I get started?
Contact Winmill PPM (Project and Portfolio Management) and we will help you get started.
We know being Agile seems daunting, but Winmill PPM can provide the applications, services, and coaching to get your organization where you want them to be!
Whether you already practice Agile and want to improve or if Agile is new to you, Winmill can help.
Organizations need to be able to respond to changing market forces while improving employee satisfaction and performance.
The question is, how can an organization meet competing demands while still delivering value to its customers?
Click here for information about our Agile offerings.
Contact Winmill PPM at email@example.com to get started today!
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