Jump right in: How to introduce agile through hands-on learning

‘We should be doing agile, right?’

Developers are naturally drawn to the idea of agile development. Speedy delivery cycles, with less planning and documentation…what’s not to like? Well, for starters, there’s the disconnect between theory and implementation when undergoing an agile transformation. Some organizations have a solid understanding of agile principles but can’t apply them. This can lead to uncertainty and skepticism about agile ideas.

To combat this, Veracity has found some success with a ‘delayed boot camp’. In this model, in-depth about agile training comes later in the agile transformation process. Usually, it’s after they’ve attempted a couple of agile sprints. This ‘learn by doing’ approach might sound counter-intuitive, but hey, stick with us.

Focus on the product, not the process

The beginning isn’t always the best place for an introduction. Development teams typically start their agile transformation with an agile boot camp or ‘agile 101’ session. There, everyone learns agile theory over a couple of days. After a PT planning or ‘Sprint 0’ exercise, the sprints begin…and sometimes sputter out. If you’ve been in agile development long enough, this might start to sound familiar.

Veracity found the problem was these early boot camps emphasized the process over the output. Vocal skeptics (we all know one), would distract the class and instructors found themselves wasting time wading through ultra-specific questions. The goal of software development should be to create high-quality value, faster. If that’s our destination, we can’t be too distracted nailing down the exact way to get there. We just have to get there.

Get everyone on the same page

The delayed boot camp model helps development teams stay focused on their product output. It starts with an inception and alignment exercise. At Veracity, this ‘I&A’ exercise is a two-day planning process with key stakeholders. These can be organizational leaders, the development team, even marketing and sales staff. Everyone should be on board with the agile transformation. The development team leaves the exercise with a release plan – and just enough background information about agile development needed to follow it. Then, it’s time to attempt a couple sprints before reuniting for the delayed boot camp.

The tailored I&A exercise helps get your team excited about your agile transformation. Why? Because it keeps the focus on application and output. Your team isn’t hyper-focused on becoming experts in agile development theory. They’re ready to build deliver value in the form of a superior product. And use agile as a tool to do it.

Regroup and dive in

When it’s time for the delayed boot camp (after about two sprints), your team can practice agile using real-life examples from their current projects. This can help reduce downtime and thwart would-be agile skeptics. Where traditional boot camps have struggled through hypothetical examples, your team can continue its hands-on learning.

Your team might not have found loads of success in their pre-boot camp sprints – and that’s ok! This is where experiential learning comes into play. Some aspects of agile will have clicked, others will be more challenging. But, because they’ll have already tried agile on their own. And we’ve found that means they’ll arrive at the boot camp ready to learn and with relevant, useful questions.

Keep moving forward

Life rarely gives us any ‘silver bullet’ solutions, and the delayed boot camp model is no exception. Agile transformations are challenging! Many organizations do find traditional boot camps to be effective. As with any shift within an organization, it’s important to remain flexible and positive as challenges arise. And it doesn’t hurt to celebrate small successes, especially early on. Stay positive, focus on the output, and find the agile process along the way.

Veracity specializes in helping organizations conceptualize, design, and build effective software. We believe that, by prioritizing planning early in the launch process, we can reduce time and energy wasted at the later stages. For more information, we’ve published an eGuide to help with your agile transformation. To get it, click here!