Making Agile approaches stick by showing value

As Product Delivery consultants, we want to ensure that our teams continue to work in an Agile way after we depart. This means that we need to do the best job of coaching, teaching, and mentoring best practices when it comes to working in software delivery. This can be in relation to the product, ways of working, engineering best practices, and more.

In this blog, we are going to cover how we can ensure best practices stick from the stance of a Scrum Master/Agile Delivery Lead and how these best practices help to deliver value to the customer more efficiently.

The Issue We Saw

We joined a product delivery team for an already established product and found something that we see quite often: that the Show and Tells (aka Sprint Reviews) were only getting attendees that were very close to the development team. We didn’t have the right audience for the squad. For example, we had no real users of the service/tool; we had no one from legal; or our key stakeholders/sponsors. We were missing their representation in these critical fortnightly meetings, where we demonstrated the value that we had delivered in the previous sprint and looked for valuable feedback.

How could we improve this?

Our product required an improvement to the attendees to our Show and Tells, after all, this event is for inspection and adaptation!

The main ways in which we did this:

We went to each group of stakeholders, showcasing the product development efforts and our approach. Our aims were to not only get the word out but also find individuals within our stakeholder groups that were going to be active and willing participants to our development efforts! With the increase of incremental feedback from our stakeholders it meant that we could remain on track for delivering the desired product.

We decided to do a recruitment drive for participants through a ‘Roadshow.’ The intention of the roadshow was to tell everyone the journey we have come on so far and the current state of the product, thus requesting feedback to ensure delivery remained on track but with all the proper governance to go with it ensuring we are not cutting any corners. We sent out invites to over 300 individuals across the organisation and we had 116 people turn up to the roadshow which was a great success in our eyes. We also extended the invite out to our fortnightly Show and Tells with the audience going from 15 up to an average of about 35.

The important bits:

  • Released agenda in advance of the roadshow.
  • Invited every person from each department making it ‘talked about.’
  • Asking for forgiveness rather than permission for people’s time.
  • Recorded the roadshow to ensure we captured everything.

Through this we found the stakeholders who were keen participants and made sure to bring them on board for our activities where their feedback and input were most valuable – our Show and Tells.

Well-prepared Show and Tells

The real value here was the preparation for the actual ceremony. A separate session was put in the calendar post stand-up to prepare for the running order putting the most valuable thing at the front-end of the session, allowing plenty of time for questions and feedback.

With the right people in the meetings, we made sure it was as high quality as possible:

  • Ensured Show and Tells were well-prepped.
  • Set our ‘rules’ for each demo so people were comfortable thus helping the flow.
  • Delivery Lead would lead on presenting – encouraged others to take part (but not easy!).
  • Ensure that the value delivered was identified i.e. onboarding a particular team; bugs fixed.

Ensure we constantly improved

  • We had a meeting-specific channel to capture comments etc during all meetings.
  • Used Retrospectives to inspect and adapt the ceremonies so constantly evolving.
  • Always has a % of time dedicated to tech debt.
  • Introduced meeting-free days/afternoons.
  • Created a team agreement collaboratively with the team.
  • Introduced a team ideas session.
  • Built team morale by coming together at least 1 day per sprint.

The effects this had

  • Improved communication with stakeholders – inviting the right people along to the Show and Tell meant that we had direct feedback from stakeholders thus meaning we were able to show improvements requested by them more frequently.
  • Team members more comfortable – we identified each individual team members needs such as waiting for questions at the end of each section, so the team were more forthcoming with wanting to present.
  • Relationships improved with external ‘influencers’ – this stemmed from inviting to roadshows and Show and Tells, we built relationships up over time and reduced many ad-hoc meetings within the sprint.
  • Ways of working ironed out over time – constantly evolving ways of working meant each person had an input and collectively moved to a way of working that suited everyone in the squad.

How did this make Agile ‘stick’?

  • The Show and Tells were valuable and effective for many stakeholders. They were happier as their priorities were covered and immediately added to the backlog.
  • All team members, whether permanent or contract, were more personally invested into a more agile/scrum-orientated way of working.
  • It allowed the Delivery Lead to help iron out the identified and agreed upon improvements along the way.
  • Tangible evidence that the meeting free afternoons/days created more work getting done.

By taking these steps, we were able to improve our Show and Tells, our ways of working, and our communication with stakeholders. This helped to ensure that our agile approach stuck, even after we departed the project. The evidence in this situation suggests that by having more participants in the Show and Tells, and the right people, we can continually get feedback on what we are building, and people have the opportunity to make suggestions to the roadmap too. A positive effect for the squad too was that we spent less ad-hoc meetings speaking with these participants as they all had a chance to have an input at the Show and Tells creating more time for people to do ‘actual work.’

Here are some additional tips for ensuring that your agile approach sticks:

  • Make sure you have a clear and compelling product vision. This will help to keep everyone on the same page and motivated to deliver value to the customer.
  • Create a culture of continuous learning and improvement. This will help the team to adapt to change and grow over time.
  • Empower the team to make decisions. This will help to create a sense of ownership and responsibility.
  • Celebrate successes and learn from failures. This will help to keep the team motivated and engaged.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your agile approach sticks and delivers value to your customers.