The idea of getting a team to increase performance by 400% sounds crazy but it’s exactly what is happening at software startups. It is no secret that the key ingredient is using agile project management. The real secret is that those same agile principles can be applied to any startup.
Myth: Agile is only for software
Agile management practices are being implemented in all kinds of businesses. Jeff Sutherland, a founding member of agile methodology and fighter pilot, in his recent book provides an example of a condo developer using agile principles to build high rise condos. If agile principles can work for the construction of high rise condos, with a little customization they will work in your company.
When switch to an agile project management can increase your team’s productivity by 400% why are you not using it today? Maybe you have thought agile can’t work in your organization. Begin implementing these 4 steps today to jump start your team’s productivity.
- Laser Like Focus – In Agile development, teams go through what is called a sprint, this is a period of 1-2 weeks where the team only works on specific tasks. These tasks are agreed upon before the sprint starts by both the team and leadership. During a sprint the team only works on tasks that will help them accomplish the goals of the sprint. By eliminating distractions the company is allowing the team to accomplish the goals of the sprint. Try it out today by instituting a no meeting day or no emails before lunch. This will give your team a distraction free time to focus on accomplishing the single most important task.
- Continuous improvement – Agile teams believe in continuous improvement. One way they accomplish this is by having a meeting at the end of each sprint called a retrospective. In a retrospective the teams talks about what worked well and what did not. This meeting is a judgment free zone with the single goal of helping the team perform more efficiently. Try it out today by having meetings at the end of each week. In this meeting you act as the facilitator and allow the team to give feedback about what is working and what is not. At the end of the meeting let the team decide on the most important item. Once your team has decided on an improvement to make, set a metric to track that improvement and follow up next week.
- Constant Customer feedback – Agile teams take customer feedback to a new level. At the end of each sprint agile teams show what they have accomplished to the customers. So every 1-2 weeks customers are getting a prototype to play with and give immediate feedback to the developers. Try it out today by bring your customers into your own design process. Give customer early access to the project you are working on and soak in all the feedback they give you. The earlier you get feedback from your customers the less costly it is to change down the road.
- Information Radiator – In agile project management information about the project is placed in a common area on a whiteboard with 100’s of post-its/notecards detailing everything about the project. This board is commonly referred to as the information radiator. Anyone is allowed to look at the board because this ensures the entire company is on the same page, from accounting to the sales staff. Try it out today by setting up a whiteboard in an area where everyone will see. Write down the entire task for your project. On the white board create 3 columns with the following headers TODO, WORK IN PROGRESS, and DONE. Now place all the task in the TODO column, as the task are being worked on move them into the WORK IN PROGRESS column and then finally move them to DONE when the task is complete.
Use these steps today
Don’t let the name Agile scare you into thinking the agile principles can’t be implemented in your company just because you don’t develop software. Embrace the 4 principles in your company today and experience the increase in productivity the software industry has for the last 10 years.