Being both a methodology and a mindset, agile encompasses many things. When hoping to run a successful agile implementation though, you cannot afford to be watching every moving part all of the time. You need to focus on ensuring some essential elements are in place instead. So what are the three most important agile practices? In an article for Scrum Alliance, scrum master Rex Lester shares his compelling three picks:
- Ensure that the voice of the customer is at the front and center of everything.
- Keep all your discussions in the language of the business.
- Deliver as early and as often as you can.
You might be surprised to see that things like “transparency” and “continuous improvement” do not make the cut, but Lester feels that his three are even more foundational to success than those. After all, other things being equal, a project has to give customers what they need instead of what IT thinks they want. If an agile team does not adhere closely to business needs by way of a dedicated product owner, then whatever deliverable is produced is ultimately going to be flawed. A team must stick with what the product owner approves.
As for the second pick, Lester believes keeping discussion in the language of business is crucial to keep expectations in line and to receive buy-in when changes must be made. This is especially true in communications with the product owner:
… you may need to refactor some code, make an architectural change, or perform some other technical task. Your product owner must understand why delivering any of this should be more important than the functional user stories in his or her product backlog. …
Explain to them what you need to do, why it’s important, what will happen if you don’t do this, and how much it will cost. You may be surprised by their response. …
Similarly, wording requirements and handing down solutions in the language of a user story is quite unacceptable. The focus on outcomes should be explicit, and the reasons for this should be explained until everyone “gets it.”
Lastly, if a team is agile, then it must be delivering on a fast, regular basis; otherwise, the team might as well just have stuck with waterfall. Getting regular completed product increments in front of customers so that feedback for improvement can be solicited is what makes agile worthwhile. If bureaucracy gets in the way of rapid delivery, then the scrum master needs to find a sympathetic stakeholder with executive might for support.
If an agile team can cling to these three elements, then it is possible to eventually grow everything else on top. For further elaboration on these ideas, you can view the original article here: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2017/may/the-three-most-important-agile-practices