I’ve been on a few Agile courses in my life, and in each instance upon completion of the course, the winged angles of death circled the agile project to which I was bound and cancelled it before it even started. Instead of the horse being shot at the first hurdle, it was summarily dismissed and sent to the glue factory whilst still in the stable munching carrots, gazing with optimistic eye at the sunshine. ‘What a wonderful day’ was the horse’s penultimate thought, before thinking ‘oh that’s quite a big gun’.
If you’re unfamiliar with agile vs waterfall the basics are pretty simple. In the traditional ‘waterfall’ method you work through some ideas of what you think you want, and as you go through the project and ‘down the waterfall’, it becomes harder and harder to get back up to change anything, and then at the end of the project the results are produced - the big reveal! With agile you have some ideas of what you want, but you have incremental delivery of the project so you see it developing, are involved more, and are more likely to get the outcome you require. Or drive yourself into a coma. Success or paralysis, effectively.
It was with some trepidation then that I set aside my hobby-horse and recently took on the role of a Product Owner within an Agile Team, a fun and rewarding job. One thing I loved immediately was a Sprint Review – in the traditional waterfall method of projects you conduct a review at the end to find out what you’ve done well and what you can do better next time. In Agile though, you do these after every sprint i.e. after every mini-delivery. It can be a cleansing and therapeutic process, but with some opinioned stakeholders it can be like fending off a 500lb gorilla with a stick made of bananas.
But the key is reflection, and none more so than self-reflection. When in leadership roles, it’s one thing I could have done more, and it only needs to be simple. For example, picking out a few traits at random, personally I most admire leaders that keep a cool head, make time for people, and communicate often and effectively. Now, if I reflected every day on whether I did those things, I would be better placed to determine whether I was reaching the goals I most admire in leadership. Within the Agile framework you have a daily catch-up or scrum (derived from a rugby scrum) and reflect upon three things: what you did yesterday; what you’re doing today; the things that may stop you completing your tasks’. A useful extension to that would be ‘what did I do well and what could I have done better.’ If we reflect and resolve to improve, there’s less chance of us meeting the glue factory, especially if we are armed with cannon.
Image references: https://en.valka.cz/topic/view/111363/75-cm-M-1908-75-mm-horsky-kanon
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