Gaining agile experience

After creating agile awareness it is time to gain initial experience. In practice, pilot projects have proven successful for this purpose. But in order to really test agility and to be able to make a statement about the benefits, it is important that the agile pilot teams implement the agile framework – in most cases Scrum – as close as possible to the ideal theoretically described structure. Too many compromises at the beginning often lead to bad experiences and little benefit.

Use an agile pilot team

Agile methods – such as scrum – are suitable for every complex development project and, if implemented correctly, bring great benefits. Nevertheless, it is advisable to select a pilot project in such a way that some important success factors are secured.

  • The team size of the core team should not exceed 11 participants.
  • All roles must be filled.
  • Team members should participate voluntarily.
  • The team should be able to work together spatially if possible.
  • The team members should work 100% on the project if possible.
  • The number of external interfaces should be manageable.
  • The stakeholders involved should have a positive attitude towards agile working.

A particular challenge in practice in the development of mechatronic products is often the maximum team size, as usually, more than 11 people have to be involved until the product can go into series production. Here, it is important to ensure the team’s efficiency through a suitable composition, e.g. with a core team and extended team. It is important that this is done in a self-organised way. However, organisation via a core team / extended team only works up to a certain number of people involved. If more team members need to be involved, the selection of a scaling method is also necessary for the pilot phase. However, it is advisable to avoid the additional complexity generated by scaling during the first agile steps.

The agile pilot always starts with extensive training. Not only the team members are trained, but also the partners at the interfaces and the managers concerned. CO Improve has developed special training formats for this, such as the LEGO-eCar workshop. These formats have already proven themselves in practice many times and have always met with extremely positive feedback from the training participants.

As soon as the team has been trained and has understood, at least in theory, what they will encounter in the agile pilot, they agree on a working agreement. This agreement includes banal things such as when and where which event (Sprint Planning, Daily, Backlog Refinement, Review and Retrospective) takes place. In addition, more complex questions, such as the challenge of involving more than 11 team members mentioned above, are also discussed. It is important for the team to gain the experience of being completely self-organised in the area of responsibility of their agile pilot when making decisions in the Working Agreement. Of course, managers who are stakeholders as of now can (and may) advise the team, but the decisions should be made in the team – and only there.

An agile team will be successful when it fully identifies with its product and takes full responsibility for it. The course for this is set in the Working Agreement – at this point at the latest, the team learns for the first time that from now on it is in the “driver’s seat”.

After the Working Agreement is concluded, the team starts with the agile iterations in Scrum or Kanban mode. A common mistake is to deviate too much from the ideal method described in theory, either because you come to the conclusion: “That can’t be done in our company”, or the belief prevails that: “That won’t do any good”. An example of this is the daily. From time to time, teams try to save money and only do two dailies a week. Other examples are estimating in Story Points or Sprint Commitment. In any case, the motto is: First try doing it the way it is described.

During the first agile steps, extensive experience is gained in a short time. Many things are new and there are often great uncertainties regarding the implementation of the method and behaviours in the new roles. Therefore, many companies have realised that the support of an experienced agile coach is crucial, especially in this phase.

The consultants at CO Improve have experienced a wide variety of situations in more than 200 agile pilot projects and have brought them to a successful conclusion. Use this potential for your start into an agile future as well.

Benefits of agile working

Agility is not an end in itself. Agile working is not just a method, but a cross-company framework that should help to improve the market success of the company. The three levers repeatedly cited in literature are better products, increased value and higher efficiency. However, it is difficult to prove whether these benefits occur at all and, if so, to what extent. In practice, two projects with comparable teams are never realised with one adopting an agile approach and the other not, which would allow for a comparison of product success and the development effort involved.

And especially in the first phase of a pilot, improvements in effectiveness and efficiency are barely noticeable. In practice, a good early indicator of how successful an agile team will be has turned out to be the factor of how proud the team is of its baby (product). This factor can be measured early on. If there are limitations or concerns, it is highly recommended to investigate the causes and initiate improvements. As a rule, however, they soon feel the benefits of agile working and plan the next steps: Deploying an agile transformation team.

From a neutral point of view, there are now some independent institutes that have surveyed companies (non-IT) regarding their experiences with agility. More than 80% of these companies stated that they had achieved improvements in efficiency and results. Around 90% of the companies stated that the improvements achieved were higher than the effort involved. The probability is, therefore, enormously high that your company can also improve its position in the market through agile working. At CO Improve, we support you in entering tomorrow’s world. 

The benefit to you

  • You set up your first agile pilot project quickly and efficiently.
  • You gain concrete experience in practice and can better assess the benefits for your company.
  • You achieve an unprecedented degree of transparency regarding the project status.
  • The satisfaction and motivation of your employees are significantly increased.