Achieve agile operations with these 7 must-know terms

10/10/20174 Minute Read

The average employee attends 62 meetings a month—and about half of them are a complete waste of time, according to research by Atlassian. And it’s not just valuable work hours we’re squandering either. In an article published by The Mandarin, one survey discovered that 70 percent of employees believe that meetings aren’t useful in assisting with their workload or projects. Given these numbers, it’s no wonder there’s universal disdain for meetings within most businesses and organisations. Meetings are disruptive, largely inefficient, and downright annoying. But with agile operations, they don’t have to be.

In organisations that follow agile operations—where all departments are working simultaneously on various pieces of a project—communication is critical, time is essential, and meetings are a well-organised art form. The agile methodology is an alternative to the traditional waterfall project management model, where projects are completed one department at a time. It creates an environment with fewer inefficient meetings and less wasted time. Let’s take a look at a few of the tactics executed by organisations successful in agile operations.

What makes truly agile operations?

As a professional in the tech world, chances are you’ve heard the term “agile” a few (million) times. Software execs and operations gurus love to throw this buzzword around almost as much as “big data” and “blue-sky thinking.” According to Agilemethodology.org, “Agile approaches help teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cadences, known as sprints.”

The ultimate goal of a truly agile workplace is to increase productivity, while reducing inefficiencies. What are the agile practices implemented by successful businesses and organisations around the world—and what do they achieve? Here are seven winning tactics that every agile arsenal needs to succeed.

1. Daily stand-ups

While kicking back in a boardroom chair and tucking into a disturbingly large platter of gourmet rolls and pastries is the way many professionals imagine the “ideal meeting,” the key to efficiency with daily stand-up meetings is to remove all distracting and unnecessary elements. That’s right, eliminate comfort.

The idea is to conduct brief and concise meetings in a small, standing-only huddle. A similar way to think of it is the adoption of the walking meeting, which some companies have adopted to boost collaboration.

2. Scrum meetings

These daily gatherings can also be stand-up meetings, and they’re generally held every morning in the same location, at the same time, for around 15 minutes. The leader (or Scrum Master) asks each team member to answer three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any impediments in your way?

3. Sprints

Sprints manage project timelines and deadlines within “timeboxed” events. They have a clear beginning and end, lasting between one and four weeks. A project may have many sprints, with each department committed to specific objectives. To uphold the standards of agile operations, a sprint is usually inflexible.

4. The 80/20 rule

Have you ever spent a great deal of time overthinking a problem, only to return to your original conclusion? Agile strives to prevent this inefficiency by recognising 20 percent of the effort put into a project is productive—and the remaining 80 percent is a waste of time. The agile methodology teaches teams to stay within the 20 percent, complete a task, and move on to the next sprint.

5. Burndown chart

Visuals help teams recognise the big picture, and burndown charts are highly effective in keeping professionals on-task. In this chart, the x-axis shows the project timeline, while the y-axis indicates the amount of work left to be completed. A straight line is drawn from the top of the y-axis to the end of the x-axis. Each day a new point is added, representing the completed tasks. If the point is above the line, the team is ahead of schedule. And if the point is below, the project is falling behind.

6. User stories

User stories are high-level, simple definitions of software functionality written with the end user in mind. These stories define what must be built within the project during a sprint and are considered requirements. For example, a banking application software company may include the user story, “As a user, I want an easy way to check my savings account balance anytime and anywhere.”

7. Test-driven development

After each sprint is completed, agile projects define test cases to validate user stories. In plain English, this means quality assurance tests the functionality of the product to ensure all requirements are met before the next sprint or before the product is released.

As with most agile principles, each organisation will have their own unique take on project management. However, to be truly effective as an agile environment, all teams must commit to the methodology. These seven tactics are essential to success in this space.

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