5 Tips for “Spring Cleaning” Your Agile Practices | SitePen

Maybe it’s the spring air and the budding trees. Maybe it’s the longer daylight hours. Maybe you watched too many home organization TV shows when it was too cold to go outside. Whatever the reason, there is something about this time of year that makes us want a fresh start by spring cleaning. And what better place to direct that energy than towards freshening up your agile team’s practices.

There are many points in time where a refresh just makes sense. Your team may have changed in composition, with new members or stakeholders. Your product direction may have changed. You might realize that no one really knows what is lurking in the back of the “junk drawer” that is your backlog. All of these are indicators that your team could use some spring cleaning.

Here are 5 easy-to-follow tips for spring cleaning your agile practices:

Tip #1: Before you do anything, identify your goals!

People — does our team have the right mindset and skills to support our customers?

Processes — does our process work for us? Do we understand the “why” behind our process, or are we just going through the motions?

Technology — do we have the right tools in place to support our and our customer’s goals? Do we use these tools effectively?

Use the gaps you identify to set some goals for the refresh and be sure to check back later to see if you achieved your desired results!

Tip #2: Have a team reset.

Team health check — Have the team assess themselves in various aspects of successful teams and identify areas they would like to focus on improving. (Bonus if you can compare these results to a previous or future health check!)

Revisit team norms — Have the team revisit their previously defined team norms, or even start from scratch. It’s always a good time to make sure a team’s agreements are aligned.

Review the 12 Agile principles — Having the team internalize these principles will greatly improve their connectedness to the process.

Tip #3: Take time to clean up your backlog (aka the junk drawer).

No, I’m not talking about old batteries or tubes of super glue!

One of the beautiful things about Agile is its flexibility with changing priorities. Unfortunately, one side effect of a busy team with work shifting in and out is that the backlog becomes a black hole. It can contain a build-up of old requirements, forgotten tech debt and bug fixes, and a handful of things someone who didn’t know how to properly use Jira created and lost (you know who you are). But good news! It’s spring cleaning time!

The best place to start is to do a quick triage and delete things that are no longer needed. This could be old requirements, duplicates, or mistakes. Group similar stories and prioritize what you can. This is also a great opportunity to organize tech debt and make a plan to address a little during each sprint as another clean-up item.

How do you know when you’re done? Well, sometimes that is when the junk drawer is empty. But most likely, you will have a well-organized set of things you know are relevant, as well as a plan for how they will be used in the future.

Tip #4 — Pace yourself!

The same applies to improvements for your team. Don’t try to fix everything at once. Instead, take an approach of incremental and continuous improvement. This concept is called kaizen, and is essentially the cycle of planning, doing, studying, and adopting incremental improvements over time. You may identify improvement opportunities with your team as part of a team reset exercise or retrospective. There is no pressure to make every change at once. Choose one or two small changes to start with, and assess how they work for your team before adopting the change and trying something else.

Tip #5 — Amplify your successes

This is especially useful when a team already sees themselves as high-performing and can’t come up with anything to “fix”. Challenge them to define what makes them successful, and think of ways to encourage that behavior or practice to grow beyond where they are today.

Spring cleaning is good for your team!

Originally published at https://www.sitepen.com on April 20, 2021.

Modernizing Apps, Tools & Teams | sitepen.com | Twitter: @sitepen

Modernizing Apps, Tools & Teams | sitepen.com | Twitter: @sitepen