In control with Agile

Technical Consultant, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Read time: 2 mins
Jenny Matthews explains how Agile working can give you the control you want, without having to compromise.
In control with Agile imageLet’s take the idea of a sprint in a literal sense, a 100m sprint. It’s quick, it’s fast and you can see exactly where you need to get to, right from the start line. That’s why we use the word sprint in Agile; it’s a manageable chunk, where the finish line is never too far away. 
 
But why is it that we think just because it’s short, we have no control over where we are going? What makes you think a 100m runner runs a race without a thought as to what they’ll do after? They know exactly what they’ll do after the race, the day after, the week after; they know when their next big event is and they know what they need to do to make that next race a success. 
 
The control isn’t gone at all, it’s still there, it’s just disguised a little differently.
 

Removing the disguise

In a lot of ways, big, meticulous project plans are great. They tell you exactly where you need to be, at what point and how much it’s all going to cost. But the issue with them, and one that we have all experienced, is when does a project ever truly stick the original plan? Hardly ever.
 
So why is it, when we use a roadmap to set our long term goals, sprint reviews as check-in points and stand ups for daily feedback, that we think we have less control?
 
Don’t get me wrong, managed incorrectly, Agile can easily get you in to trouble. With ever growing backlogs and ever changing priorities, sometimes the original goal can get lost and with that the sense of control.
 
On my first day on a new project I asked my team, how can I help? One of the first things they told me was that they were great at sprinting; they were now a mature team, who could manage their workloads and deliver every sprint. But they had got so bogged down in delivering each sprint and that combined with shifting priorities, meant they had lost sight of what they were actually working towards.
 
So, how do we change this?
 

Putting your best foot forward 

Agile doesn’t remove the need to plan, it just allows for a more flexible path. 
 
Roadmaps are a great start. Roadmaps can set the direction for the team. A roadmap will highlight those key milestones, the focus points, the targets that need to be hit. 
 
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creating a roadmap, but one trap to avoid is over planning. What you don’t want to be doing is pushing your team to work in an agile way, to sprint, to scrum and in the same breath, create a long term, detailed plan you insist they adhere to. 
 
For example, for teams working in two week sprints, having monthly milestones/goals can provide just the right level of guidance. It’s not too far in the future that it’s not worth thinking about, but it’s not too close that it just gets wrapped up in a sprint. 
 
One thing to remember is that targets are just that, a target, something to aim towards. Creating a roadmap should only be done to give direction, not to dictate. The roadmap tells you where to go, but the team should decide how they get there. 
 

Time to Team

As always with Agile, it’s about trusting your team, empowering them to make decisions, to make changes, to plan their route, to change their route, allowing them to fail fast but ultimately to deliver.
 
Agile isn’t about relinquishing control; it’s just a new way of looking at it.
 

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About the author
Jenny Matthews is a Technical Consultant with BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
jenny.matthews@baesystems.com
 
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Jenny Matthews Technical Consultant, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence 7 January 2020