10 signs you're damming your own Agile workflow

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Posted by Brian Borg


Are you getting in the way of your own Agile workflow? Sorry to say, but it's costing you. 93 percent of businesses that had fully adopted an Agile model before the current pandemic did better than those that had not.

Unlike Waterfall, Agile is an iterative and continuous cycle. But, old-fashioned ideas, egos and poor practices are blockers to success.

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Here are ten signs you're damming your own Agile workflow:

1. You don't actually have an Agile workflow

Is it Agile? Or are you just calling it Agile? If you're doing Scrum or Kanban, then sure, you're "sort of" doing Agile. If that's good enough for you, then fine, but consider that you may be settling for less. Use project management tools like Jira to build a fully Agile system.

2. You're doing Agile, but you don't have an Agile culture

Of failed Agile implementations, 63 percent of people blamed the clash between their organization's culture and the Agile business philosophy. Agile is more than a way of working, it's a mindset. See this article on McKinsey's site for practical advice on how to build an Agile culture.

3. You're not planning as a team

Strategy is a group effort (say it again for the people at the back!). If you're managing a project, you must listen to feedback. Build plans with a diverse range of voices - stakeholders, in-house team members, third parties - in order to gain a realistic understanding of scope and opportunities.

4. Your stories are actually tasks

Points are not the goal. Features are not the goal. User experience is the goal, always. That's why stories are integral to Agile; without them, you're task workers, not problem solvers.

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5. Your sprints are dragging on

Remember, you can't change what you can't measure. So keep a log of how many tasks spill over into the next sprint. It could be a planning issue. It could be a skills issue. But you'll never know until you measure it.

6. Your stand-ups are going on for to long

Also, if your daily stand-ups are taking forever, that's generally a symptom of a bigger issue with your Agile workflow, usually around lack of clear direction.

7. You're not doing enough retrospectives

Have you ever said, 'let's skip the retrospective this time'? If so, then you've said you're willing to let your team miss out on valuable learning opportunities.

8. You've got a monstrous backlog

An overwhelming backlog can become a psychological burden. It's important to check in regularly to filter ideas and delete tickets that are no longer relevant or obsolete.

9. You've not taken your team into account

A system should serve people. Your team is not in service to a system. If you're finding Agile isn't working for you, then make adaptations as you need them. A Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) methodology, for example, is helpful for cross-functional communication between DevOps and QA.

10. You're not automating any of your testing

Automation gives your team the ability to improve quality without expending too much time on repetitive tasks. See our articles on the Agile testing pyramid and Agile testing quadrants for ways to prioritize automating tests and how to fit them into your working process.

Unblock your Agile workflow

Ideally, software development lifecycles operate seamlessly. Developers, QA engineers, project managers and other business stakeholders need to be able to work flexibly together as part of a system. Agile done badly will cause nothing but frustrations. Agile done right, however, will foster that elusive sense of flow.

'Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.'

—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of 'Flow: the psychology of happiness'

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