Agile – a concept that often is misunderstood. The most common misconception is that agile is about a certain type of work method that many people think you can introduce and then claim you are working agile. Unfortunately, the truth is far from that simple. Agile is more of a culture and mindset to achieve certain goals and has very little to do with a specific working method. This is also why there are so many different methods that are classified as agile. There can be a great deal of difference between these methods, but they have a common denominator – they promote or create conditions to reach the agile objectives.
The Agile objectives
Create value rapidly
Value is about presenting something that makes it worth acquiring/using a product or service, for the customer or user. It needs to add something and have a competitive advantage over other options. What the value is differs depending on what kind of product or service it is. It can be measurable values as well as immeasurable values. It can also be things that don’t add anything to end users but help the teams developing the product or their own business in some way. However, all values need to be prioritized in relation to each other, it is difficult to “have everything” if you want to create value rapidly. Because speed is relevant in this context. However, it should not be at the expense of quality, because that can have fatal consequences for the product or the brand.
You also want to maximize collaboration in product development. Make sure there are as few situations with misunderstandings and miscommunication, and where you can experience the consequences of that as possible. By bringing the right people and stakeholders together to solve problems, we create fewer misunderstandings along the way and get better solutions. This is one of the most important factors which affects delivery capability of the teams and lead times in product development.
Adaptation is about being able to quickly make changes to your product or services to meet the needs of the market. For example, during the pandemic many businesses had to rethink and switch to only meeting their customers digitally to reach out. But it can also be about adaptations of working methods, timetables, resources, or other things that affect internal operations. The point is that decisions shouldn’t take long to re-plan, rethink or do differently.
How quickly can you adapt?
Minimize unnecessary work
There are many processes today that are very cumbersome with many things that needs to be done according to processes but doesn’t add anything to the product. For example, certain types of checks and reports. Extensive documentation in the MedTech industry or standards around how safety systems in the automotive industry should work are examples of phenomena that cannot be circumvented due to legal reasons. However, there is much other unnecessary work that can be removed. Think about what your work process looks like, is it possible to minimize anything?
How to achieve the objectives
As mentioned, there is no process,method, or checklist to tick off to achieve the agile objectives, but basically a culture and a mindset that allows you to work flexible and efficiently. What needs to happen is a cultural change. However, there are methods, processes and tools that help create conditions for working agile!
Short decision-making processes
When you have a long list of people who needs to be involved in deciding each decision, the decision-making processes takes a very long time, resulting in slow and inefficient work and development. Short decision-making processes makes it easier to adapt and move forward with your work. Maximizing collaborations does not mean having as many and large collaborations as possible, but rather having collaborations that are effective and that solve problems quickly. In the best of agile worlds, the development teams have a strong mandate to make decisions about the product. Something that requires a lot from both the culture and the leaders in the company to make it work.
Being transparent in who does what, what decisions are made and by whom the decisions are made makes it easier for development. If a person or a group are responsible for a specific area, it helps if they are transparent in their decision-making processes and their decisions going forward. By being open, the rest of the team knows how to think and can match their continued work towards the same objectives. It’s stupid to run separate races, meet in a month and realize you’re not on the same page. But transparency is not only about decisions, it’s also about the culture regarding improvement proposals, criticism and changes. Without transparency, the work takes place in culverts and at different hierarchical levels, which, among other things, obstructs efficiency and communication.
Shift-left is a way of thinking where the quality assurance work begins earlier in the development process. You try to find defects, mistakes or potential errors as early as possible, and work proactively preventing errors instead of only being reactive detecting errors. This applies not only to testing, but also to requirements, design, code quality, working methods and all other aspects that affect the final quality of the product.
The earlier you find the defects, the cheaper and easier it will be to fix them. It’s also more time-efficient for the entire project instead of finding errors at the end of the product development.
There is no such thing as the perfect method or process, which mean that the first iteration of your way of working will be far from it. One of the most important aspects of agile is realizing this and working to continuously improve things. Make regular reconciliations about how you work, how the collaborations work, how processes help or obstructs, how the product is doing, how your users think and what is happening in the market, and act on the insights you get. In this way, you will ensure that you never fall behind or even become outdated. Whether it’s about the business or the product. It’s better to learn from your mistakes quickly than to let the mistakes cost you for a long time.
How to achieve the objectives
Working agile is about communication between individuals rather than processes and tools, and prioritizing the right things for the product, service, or business. Processes and tools are not unimportant, but those who actually solve the problem, i.e. the people, are more important. It’s about collaborating effectively to find valuable solutions to the right problems. Review how your decision-making processes and communication look today, can they be improved or made more efficient?
For the final quality to be optimized and create value, I recommend reviewing your entire development process and ensuring that quality assurance take place as early as possible. Try to find defects or potential errors in all areas of development.
If you only can focus on one thing, let it be continuous improvement. If you work consistently and systematically with this, most other things will work themselves out in time.
Über den Autor
Alixander has extensive experience in leading roles in quality assurance and agile. With abackground in both software and hardware and several different industries, he has helped companies both in technical areas and with organizational changes.