How to do Agile in a non-Agile environment

As a company that is almost evangelistic about Agile, we at OrangeMaple find it difficult to think that most organisations haven’t adopted or attempted Agile. But for those of you that are working in environments that haven’t adopted an Agile approach before, we thought we would give you our thoughts on how to adopt Agile. 

Here they are:

Run a show and tell and use your physical prompts

Wallboards and show and tells all create interest and build the knowledge of what you are trying to achieve. Focus on your first sprint goals and presenting your show and tell to key stakeholders. Using the physical presence shows off the work and also lets people know exactly what you have achieved. Make sure you run a mock or test show and tell where you run through the presentation and ensure most of the team members have a part. This will reduce the risk that you will stumble on the day. I believe the show and tell is the absolute number one thing that can turn around an organisation, particularly if you can get most of the key members to have a part in the presentation.

Start small and identify fellow conspirators

There are a range of things you can do. Pick a single project, run a short taster training session of 30 minutes to an hour or run an agile lunch-and-learn exercise to show people the difference between Agile and traditional methods. Just type in ‘Agile games’ or ‘Agile Lego’ into a search engine and pick the one that interests you most.

Set expectations

Don’t expect it to all run smoothly on the first sprint. Remember that a key part of Agile is to remove roadblocks. I remember the first time I was a scrum master of a new team and we set a sprint goal of around 500 but only achieved about 220. The next time around the team set a target of 500 again but we actually achieved 460. We under performed against our target but we doubled our performance. No it is not always like that but some of the biggest improvements you will make is after your first sprint and retro.

Use non-Agile terms

It is important that people feel a part of the process so make sure you introduce terminology slowly and explain terms as you go. Some terms you may want to avoid initially:

Backlog: We will make a list of future functionality

Product  owner:  The key business owner / decision maker

Daily stand up:  We will meet for 15 minutes every day to check how we can help each other

Sprint:  We will set a goal that is limited to a set period of time

Pick a project that is less likely to fail

For your first project try a simpler project, perhaps one that doesn’t have lots of suppliers or stakeholders that are likely to object to the process. Whilst we all wish we can work in an organisation that is ‘prepared to fail’, in reality most managers (particularly in government, large organisations, finance industry bodies and highly regulated industries) are not prepared to put their necks on the line and back a failed project a second time around. Start small and grow.

Got some of your own tips:  Email us and we will add them in with your name.


Leave a reply