Sharpen the Agile Saw: 3 Simple Ways to Get Started

If projects are going as planned – steady, consistent sprint burndowns with quality, predictable deliverables – is it really necessary to sharpen the Agile saw? Yes. All blades dull eventually, and if you wait too long to care for essential practices, the potential fallout could be significant. Product quality, timeliness, risk, and even team morale are on the line. 

TCG has helped multiple clients make the management, technology, and operational changes to transition from waterfall/legacy approaches and derive the full benefits of Agile using some of the best practices below.

Here are 3 practices to sharpen your team’s saw:

Servant Leadership

In traditional project management teams, the leader is the focal point — they task, manage, and take charge of everything. In healthy Agile projects, there should be an empowered, distributed model where leaders support, encourage, and guide team members. This servant leadership model protects the team from overprocessing, empowers them to innovate, and acts as a barrier against outside influences. It allows the team to focus on the work, while providing them with the autonomy to pioneer and take action on their ideas. Servant leadership is fundamental to Agile processes. It is essential to achieve self-organizing, effective teams and can drive overall project delivery forward.

Structure for Resilience

When implementing a servant leadership model, also consider designating leadership roles at every level. Technical leads, such as Senior Developers, provide the hands-on development experience to help troubleshoot issues and offer input on technical designs. The Scrum Master and Project Managers, oversee Agile processes, coach leads, balance resources, provide reachback support, and manage risk to protect team members from broader program issues. This small time investment in the team makes a big difference by creating an environment of collaboration, trust, and security. The team will be stronger and more resilient to crisis and change. The increased connectivity between the developers and technical leads improves product quality and timeliness along with increasing team morale. 

Overhaul Retros 

The Agile Scrum process entails some standard ceremonies in the form of daily standups, sprint planning, sprint reviews, and retrospective meetings. As many of our teams have experienced, the need for change sometimes outpaces the cadence of when ceremonies occur. One TCG team created a unique addition that facilitates changes in real-time instead of waiting for the next retrospective. The team implemented short, weekly process improvement meetings that serve to improve Agile practices and directly address how the team works overall, whereas retrospectives are held each sprint. The implementation of process improvement meetings resulted in:

  • Developers’ ability to better connect and collaborate with each other 
  • Higher confidence when committing to future work and projects
  • Increased task completion rate during sprints

Sharpen the Saw!

Even if your projects are already running smoothly, investing in team process improvements can result in better efficiency, higher team morale, and a better product overall! Servant leadership at every level supports the team so they can feel secure, which creates a collaborative space to contribute individual ideas and solutions. Implementing process improvement meetings, in addition to regular sprint retrospectives, allows for increased collaboration, better team buy-in, and overall process refinement.