26 June 20215 min read

Pragmatic Practices For An Agile Mindset | Handbook Part 4

Christina Lange & Mark Lambertz
Written by

Christina Lange & Mark LambertzMETRO.Digital

METRO Digital Handbook

Being agile is not always easy. Sometimes it is just a matter of implementing a few work hacks to make life easier and get in the flow. For the following practices you do not need a coach or trainer. All you require is a little courage to experiment …

Transparency & visualization: Make your work visible by sketching out MVPs, your vision, OKRs or product metrics. The same applies for communication in Teams, Jira, Confluence, etc. Transparency is more than sharing information: It means to be collaboratively responsible for a common understanding of context, goals, and tasks to be done.

Get in the loop, stay in the loop: As stated in the Iterations section, it is all about cycles. It does not matter which framework you use. As long as the team measured its performance, it is going to continuously improve, deliver value to colleagues within the organisation, clients, stakeholders or customers.

Time Boxing: This is an essential hack for learning how to focus and get the most out of a given time frame. Tip: try defining time boxes for every section of a meeting. However, there is no need to be too rigorous with it. Nevertheless, be conscious of time being an essential and finite resource

MVP: The concept of the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is often misunderstood. It is NOT a buggy prototype nor an unstable beta release. The idea of an MVP is to find the first working solution for the primary problem(s) of the main customer/user of a product. You want to reduce the scope to a level where the product contains enough quality for the customer, while limiting risk and reducing time to market. It is essential to learn as fast as possible about the usefulness of the MVP. The process of creating and developing an MVP is comparable to an artist drawing. It starts with studies and rough sketches and evolves over time into a Mona Lisa.

Experiments: In times of uncertainty, there is only one way to understand a problem - you have to conduct an experiment in order to reveal the underlying problems. Sometimes, it is not possible to think an issue through to the end as it is too complex. As a rule of thumb: The higher the uncertainty, the greater the changes that an experiment can provide knowledge about "the situation". And it gives guidance for further action in terms of value creation.

Constructive Feedback: As stated in the previous chapter, we see constructive feedback as an opportunity to discover opportunities for improvement. Therefore, critical feedback is positive because we want to improve every day. Only together we can get rid of our blind spots and logical fallacies.

Principles of volunteering: It seems obvious that humans like to work on problems, which meet their interests and strengths. Insofar as it makes sense to share work in a team according to the interests and strengths of each member. Of course, two challenges still remain: On the one hand a colleague could have too much work because certain skills are in high demand. On the other hand, there is always work left that nobody likes but which must be done. The goal is to find a fair balance of "wanna do" and " let’s get it over and done".

Cross-functional teams: A complex world needs teams which can tackle many roles. This implies different capabilities and skills to build and improve a product. A team should have as many skills as necessary to act in relative autonomy to satisfy a customer or user. If a product contains too many features to be handled by a single team, it is "sliced" into feature teams. Intra- and Inter-Team-Communication is key, to build delivery clusters around big solutions.

Action & Reflection: The generic pattern of the agile way of working is defined by alternating phases of focused action ("Plan & Do") and relaxed reflection ("Check, Act"). This enables us to be a learning organization. Fun Fact: all you need is a regular appointment in your team calendar and some time to think about what can be done better. With a little help of an Agile Master you can learn how to do it by yourself.

Prioritization: As pointed out in the paragraph about time boxing: time efficiency is key. Thus, the question of prioritization arises. As a simple guideline, ask yourself the following questions: MOSCOW - what must, should, could, would be done to satisfy a customer or user? Remember: The customer value is what the customer values!

Ways of workingAgile