Think Agile in a Traditional World

As a certified Agile Practitioner, I want to help my clients make the best decisions at the best value. Agile has many advantages over traditional methodologies. However, many large organizations are stuck with waterfall or Traditional plan-driven methodologies, either because it was the way things were always done, it is too much of a hassle to change, they don’t understand the benefits of Agile, or because the cost of switching methodologies would be too large for most organizations to handle.

If you work with a “Traditional” organization but want to help introduce Agile, or apply certain aspects of Agile here are five things that you can do to add a little agility without disrupting the “Traditional” way of thinking.

  1. Daily Stand up meetings
    Stand-up meetings are a great way to discuss how the project is progressing and help anyone if they have any issues. The key to the stand-up is to hold it at the same time every day, in the same location, and ask the same three questions:
    I. What did you do since the last time we met?
    II. What do you plan to do today?
    III. Is there anything preventing you from doing your work today?

When done right these three questions will help keep everyone informed and motivated to complete their tasks. Keep the meeting under 15 minutes and deal with any large issues outside of this meeting. Invite those you think will benefit from the meeting. You will be surprised how well this type of meeting will work and how it will reduce the need for detailed status reports.

  1. Information radiators
    An information radiator is located in a central location and contains information that is easy to see and understand by everyone. It can contain artifacts like a flowchart for a process, daily tasks organized by “To do, “In Progress”, and “Completed”, or a burn-down chart for a current phase or milestone. A radiator is successful if anyone can look at an item on the board and understand what is going on in 30 seconds or less.
  2. Burn down chart
    A burn-down chart is a simple diagram that includes a time frame and a list of activities to complete in that time frame. Each item on that list is assigned a value. As each item is completed the remaining items on the list decrease until it reaches zero. This is a great way to track how much work can be completed in a given time frame and help create work estimates for future phases.
  3. A product backlog
    A product backlog is an easy-to-read document that contains the ideas or requirements of what the business wants and needs. Other “traditional” documents can be created using this backlog. If you want to create a Business Requirements Document (BRD) then you can select items from the backlog without having to discard ideas that are out of scope. Think of it as a repository for ideas and potential work.
  4. Retrospective meetings
    At the end of each project, phase, or milestone it is a good idea to get together with the people involved and discuss what was done right and what can be improved. The key to retrospective meetings is to collect feedback from everyone involved, record the answers, and apply any great ideas or lessons learned to future projects and procedures. Learning from the past is key to improving the future.

Applying these techniques to your current methodology won’t make you Agile, but it may help your organization open up to new ideas and show that making a small change now can help create value while you are making IT happen.

By Morgan

CBAP and PMI-ACP with over 20 years of Project management and Business Analysis experience.