[Sorry that my crazy week last week meant two late posts on my blog – including this one – but here at last is my “Friday” post on Agile. I fear the week to come will be equally busy but I have lots on my mind that I hope to share so I will get things out as I am able to. Stay tuned and thanks for your patience.]
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while or who know me in ‘real life’ are probably aware that I am a big fan of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (see this blog post from long ago for some of my thoughts on this book). One of those seven habits is “begin with the end in mind.” Whether you are starting a specific task or planning the course of your life, think about where you want to end up and make choices that will move you along the most effective road for reaching that goal.
This is a key part of effective sprint planning. Good planning for what to accomplish in the next sprint does more than look at the next set of tickets on a team’s backlog. It is valuable to ask why the team is doing what it plans to do – what market needs are being addressed, what client problems solved, what areas of code improved, what stakeholder issues resolved. The short feedback loop of an effective Agile process allows the team in concert with the product manager to learn from successes and failures and to respond to new information quickly, and the regular retrospectives allow the team to incorporate this learning rapidly in evaluating its goals.
The development team I work most closely with has shifted to doing one-week plans even though we continue to use two-week sprints because we find making specific commitments on what we want to accomplish each week keeps us focused on pursuing the most important items. We can pivot quickly when we need to and can regularly validate that what we are working on provides the best value for both our business team and our clients. Rather than writing a set of goals for a long-term project at the beginning and then never looking beyond the mechanics of attaining those pre-defined goals, regularly revisiting both the what and the why with our sprint goals keeps our team focused on what matters most. Of course, even with regular short-term planning we still sometimes head down a wrong path with what we develop; but in general we realize this quickly and move in a new direction. We can’t avoid all mistakes this way because in truth it’s not that simple.