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What's our Co-founder doing in the Houses of Parliament?

2nd March 2015

It seems to me that agile (and how to do it better) is going to remain a hot topic for 2015. It feels like it has been a bit of a buzz word for a long time now. Since it has officially been around since 2001 (agile manifesto) that makes it one of the oldest buzz words in the industry! I think that part of the problem is that “agile” isn’t a technical buzzword. Like the issue of “Customer Experience Management”, “agile” is a whole company problem (which is why I suspect that we will still be battling with CXM in 10 years’ time!).  Agile works brilliantly for software development. It works even better within a start-up culture which is why you won’t find a Silicon Valley start-up running a waterfall process. Much of the reasons behind its success in this context are because there are no company politics, processes, regulations and red-tape to get in the way of a truly agile development.  Applying agile to the development of marketing and ecommerce solutions within large organisations (both in the public and the private sector) is a challenge. It feels like everyone is up for the challenge as I am becoming rather overwhelmed with being asked to come and present to organisations or to run masterclasses on how to get agile working properly.  The last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of co-presenting with the lovely Karoliina Luoto from Codento as we have been on a Europan tour with our J.Boye workshops.. As an agile consultant, Karoliina often works with senior project boards and product owners to help with the challenges of stakeholder management and helping to bridge the gap between an agile project team and a project / company board who are perhaps a little wary of the methodologies.

My experience is much more “on the coal face” in terms of how to move beyond just introducing the mechanics of scrum (but essentially still iterating towards the solution in a fairly waterfall style way) as well as agile project management i.e. what levels of management and governance do projects need? From The Lean Start-up to the (yet to be formally released) “Prince 2 Agile” accreditation from AXELOS there are a range of options available in terms of managing your project. 

If I do say so myself, I think that Karoliina and I make a great team. We started our European tour on a high having been asked to kick off a series of digital lectures to the UK Parliament (open to anyone in Parliament although primarily aimed at their IT teams of course). This seemed to be well received with Tracy Green who wrote a blog post about the sessions.  The following week Karoliina and I flew out to Denmark and Germany to run full day agile masterclasses in Aarhus and Munich. Karoliina and I blended a mix of presentations on how to lead and manage agile teams with some practical tips on how to supercharge your agile teams. The latter addressing the issue of how to move beyond the mechanics of Scrum as well as how to create a fun, blame free, motivated agile culture within the team. The good old “Tennis Ball Challenge” made an appearance too as it’s still one of my favourite agile games and it carries a strong and important message.  Amongst those attending the masterclass were some members of the highly experienced Red Bull Media team who had been running for over 70 sprints but somehow lost their agile “mojo”. It was great to get feedback the following day that they had been inspired to put the fun back into the process. In fact one of their Product Owners gave the editorial teams a Ukulele’a and asked them to describe a new feature to the off-shore development team using a song! I’m not sure I would recommend replacing acceptance criteria’s and the Definition of Done with songs just yet but the point is that putting the fun into the process (through simple things like team names, team mugs, team outings etc) has a huge impact on the motivation of the development team and therefore on the success of the project.  The key challenges from Parliament and the large organisations that we worked with are all fairly similar. How do we put an agile contract together? How do we de-risk the process so that we will have what we want when the money runs out? How do we manage multiple stakeholders who all place different levels of value on different features? How do we manage our project / company board who don’t really “get” agile? Whilst Karoliina and I can’t solve all these problems easily (if there were generic and simple answers to all of these then they would have been solved a long time ago!) the suggestions led to some great discussions during the masterclasses.  If you would like to know more about how to use agile process to manage the development of your websites or digital products, please get in touch. The barriers to entry for “being agile” are terrifyingly low and too many companies who are struggling or failing with agile based projects, usually aren’t really being very agile at all. We’d love to help!

The original article can be found at http://www.mmtdigital.co.uk/houses-of-parliament