Focus on Continuous Improvement of the Process

Results will come naturally.

Not too long ago I was asked to join an organization with young team members who told me they were an ‘Agile’ company.
“That’s great” I said, “How often do you release new software?”
“About every eight months.” was the reply…

They felt that because they were going through the motions of the Agile Software Methodology that qualified them as an ‘Agile’ shop. However, the daily standup would often turn into complaint sessions lasting up to 45 minutes. The team did not have a modern tracking system, nor were the sprints clearly defined. In addition, there was no CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) in place. It turns out that no one in the organization was formally trained in the Agile process.

To me, the term ‘Cargo Cult Engineering’ was never more obvious.

Over the next few months we focused on training, alignment and tooling.

  • Training - Key team members were enrolled in formal Agile training. What they learned was brought back to the rest of the organization to be shared and implemented. The tech team explored new platforms and libraries.
  • Alignment - We established clear communication on goals for the core software and new versions. In addition, expectations on roles and responsibilities were defined.
  • Tooling - We formalized the software tools developers would use, as well as the QA automation tools. DevOps also decided on the automation tools to use for CI/CD. Finally, Atlassian’s Jira Software, a project tracking platform, was put in place.

There were some rough patches during the implementation, as might be expected. Ingraining these new methods to become a habit were resisted by some of the established team members. It took some serious coaching to make them accept this new way of thinking. However, after a short while, these new methods (the training, the tooling, the alignment) became habit and seemed natural. Once the process became natural, the process was easy.

By the end of the first full year with our new habits in place, we were a true Agile company. The team, small as it was ( 6 developers, 2 QA, 2 PM), was able to produce results that even astonished themselves: 24 Releases in 12 Months.

Our focus was never on how many releases we could do, instead we focused on the process. By continually improving our processes, significant results came naturally.

Instilling Agile habits and improving the process leads to increased delivery.