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Why Ask “Why?” In Agile?

Why mess with success?  We rely on our best practice models in agile project management but rarely do we question why such practices are actually best.  In an article by Bill Krebs, we learn four questions everyone should be asking about their agile project management:

  • We graph, but why?
  • We have a task board, but why?
  • We have a process coach, but why?
  • We communicate openly, but why is this important?

Sometimes it seems like graphs are pointless and are only useful if you want to make yourself look professional in a meeting.  This should not be the case.  Krebs argues that graphs, like many other tools, will work wonders for your organization if utilized properly:

The concepts of big visible indicators or information radiators deliver two benefits: a self-organized team and risk reduction. Graphing helps the team react more quickly, since everyone sees the same data at once, rather than one leader looking at the data and then issuing decisions.  When graphs illustrate the risk of falling behind, the team is able to take action. Whether you are using Scrum or Extreme Programming (XP), visible charts are crucial to understanding your rate of work. Remember that completing charts is as important as knowing how to interpret the message they present.  

Task boards, like graphs, are also useful when careful consideration is put into them.  A good task board should allow you to work on multiple projects simultaneously without become overwhelmed while at the same time serving as an early indicator for risk.  A process coach is another useful tool to make sure the tools you already have are working in your favor.  You should be asking if this person is doing their job as expected and fostering a more productive work environment.

Communications is crucial in all areas of the business world.  Krebs notes that “the social contract of the agile team must be ‘bad news is good’ and ‘we’re all in it together.”  This means that everyone must be willing to discuss concerns and problems within projects or else you run the risk of separating yourself and your organization from agile principles and values.  Remember, questioning why something is done is not a negative thing.  The more you ask, the more you will be able to improve.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI’s Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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