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Marta Kacprzak
We speak our mind and we listen to each other. Open communication, sharing information and mutual feedback give us the strength to develop.Marta Kacprzak
Communication Guild Master/Head of Communication
Great work supported by great people.

North comes South

Agile. We’ve all heard that word before. But what does it mean?

Back in April Dan North, an Agile Guru from the UK, spent a week in our offices. We took this opportunity to quiz him on what Agile is and how to work smarter as a team. We had a coaching session and he gave us the opportunity to ask him questions directly. Now we’d like to share with you his advice on the meaning of Agile (and a few other things).

So why did Dan join us? As it turns out, he’s not just a run of the mill specialist in his field. Adam Lasoń, Head of Projects here at Objectivity, met Dan at a conference in London about Agile Scaling. Adam said that Dan really stood out. 90% of the speakers were talking about agile methodologies, and everyone seemed to agree with them. Suddenly, Dan came on stage and started to say that agile doesn’t scale. What a shock! In fact, what Dan was trying to say was that agile is flexible, adaptable and fluid. What sets him apart from the rest is that he doesn’t just do as he’s told. He takes a system, looks at how it can break, and then pieces it back together to make a process that works for whatever project or system he’s working on.

So, to return to Dan’s visit, he told us not talk about being agile. “Let’s describe what it is we do. When a client calls us, let’s describe the processes to them. Tell them what we can do for them.” Dan told us to be authentic. Describe exactly what the process means to us. Look at the visible effects and outcomes. Give them realistic, but workable, timescales. Our guru suggests looking into Blink Estimation for an idea of how to give a good estimation of timing, and show the effort invested, to the client.

Adapt. We always face new information and come up with new ideas. With our varied clients, we need to keep our values. Dan identified us as cool and funky. He likes how we work, but also encouraged us to use different technologies that engage us, and do things which interest us. By doing this, we’ll be able to give our clients what they want: a team who are adaptable, flexible and empathetic.

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You may have picked up on the comment that Dan likes to ‘break’ a method before piecing it back together to fit the current process. I’d like to touch on this idea a little bit more. Dan told us to follow four steps: stop, analyse, assess, continue. Rather than working in a linear project management model, he encouraged us to create our own agile approach. This involves us breaking down our project into micro-projects. Delivering small results regularly to the clients. But how do we adapt to the changes presented in a project and keep it agile? More importantly, how do we create a tailor-made agile approach to each project? Easy. We break it apart and piece it back together for each project. If you’re interested in this strategy then we suggest you read more about Dan’s ideas on Deliberate Discovery.

As the coaching came to an end, and the questioning began, Dan was asked about Project Managers. Should they manage processes or lead? His face lit up. “What a wonderful question! No more speak of Agile!” The one thing we shouldn’t do, in Dan’s opinion, is manage people. It’s about managing processes and engaging with clients. Typically companies use a matrix approach. This is when each department sends staff to work on a project and then each employee reports back to their line manager. This can dilute the project and cause a delay in management. Instead, it might be an idea to an idea to push harder with self organisation. This is one of the cornerstones of agility. Rather than Heads having huge hierarchical structures to line manage their functions, move that to the projects and encourage even more self organisation. This frees the Heads to develop and train their staff. Most importantly, though, it empowers the employees on each team to work in a style that is efficient and productive. By applying this method we can move even closer to our goal of being a true Agile company. One that is flexible in both managing the projects and delivering quality work.

There is no final destination, this is a journey we’re willing to take. One that will help us realise so much more and provide the best service possible. We’re becoming more agile by the day thanks to Dan’s wonderful advice. Thanks Dan!