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Three ways the lockdown improved our agile culture

This article was written by Paul Boylan. Paul is a Scrum Master at GPI, establishing a supportive environment where the development team can work at its best.

At the end of our Coleridge sprint on the Horizon project, we had our first major demo for the leadership team. Hardly settled into our new offices, we were a little in denial we would soon be working out of our homes. Before the end of our Duxford sprint we were all in lockdown, and we faced the challenge of sprints Ely through Hauxton as individuals.

1. Self-organisation

This was a new team, who hadn’t been working together for long. Normally a challenging time. Still in the polite stage, differences in working styles were showing as a theme in retrospectives. Sending everybody home would likely exacerbate this. In fact, with change now inevitable for everyone, I now saw the team finding ways to work. Practice, the ‘how’, emerged from the team.

2. Stand-up engagement

I have three stand up meetings each morning. I am not in the same room as any of the teams. They might be split across a couple of locations, but they are in a group. This changed with lockdown. The purpose of the stand-up meeting is for the developer to tell their own story to themselves, but also to the team. It is easy to slip into the habit of making each update sound like it is to the Scrum Master, especially when the Scrum Master is the most remote. It is an update to the person who wasn’t here yesterday and won’t be here today. Unexpectedly, with everyone working from home, a more complete circle was formed, increasing participation and collaboration.

3. Story selection

Another area refreshed by the lockdown has been story selection. Over time, the cadence of sprints begins to work against value. We want to deliver the highest value possible each sprint, but we know there is a next sprint coming. In lockdown, I have noticed a new importance in having something great to show. We began to visualize the product, one sprint on, either with or without a feature. It is easy to imagine a craving for interaction and a need for purpose as driving this, but another idea is that we are living with more ‘cannot do’ now and this has sharpened our focus on the ‘can do’: what if the user can do this… or this?

If agile thrives in environments of adversity, unpredictability, and change, then it follows that there is a risk that it loses ground where these are absent. The challenge, I think, is to keep with us the spirit of these times.

How has lockdown affected your agile practice? Let me know in the comments below.

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