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Days of Our Agile Lives

Like sands through the hourglass, time slips away quickly and silently. In about seventy-five days, give or take, we all will have survived 2020, a year marked by unprecedented global happenings. We are solidly in the fourth quarter, y'all! Time to get on the pumpkin spice wagon – or at least, pull out a sweater for those chilly mornings coming our way. While this year has been brutal to us all, just like America’s most widely distributed soap opera, time continues to tick every day. As a part of corporate America for most of my adult life, this time of year has brought the juggle of normal work and the mountains of reports for next year’s goals and budget. There is no doubt that annual planning for 2021 is in full swing, as you read this. "What does this have to do with Agile? Isn’t everyone Agile now – Agile doesn’t plan past the next sprint (Two weeks, right?)! "

Valid questions! Let’s discuss! I’ll start with the middle question first: Today, most companies report using Agile as methodology. A quick search with my friend Google, showed varying numbers via sources like State of Agile, Capterra and Gartner, of between 71% to 95% of Agile adoption in today’s businesses. One day, very soon, I will delve into “The Perils of using Agile as a Buzzword”. (Future Blog Alert!)

Today, we are focused on how Agile helps and colors annual planning for next year, as noted in the first and last questions. It doesn’t have to be a nightmare!

The Bottom Line: During my years of managing strategic teams for America’s oldest bank, we drafted and revised our bi-weekly steering report at least two hours before delivering it the day before the Steering meeting. The mantra for those presentations was: “Keep it Simple! Straight forward Facts!” Executive teams may or may not understand Agile lingo. Executive teams seek a bottom-line summary. A well-groomed product backlog will go a long way in being able to quickly measure (at a high level) what features and functions can be delivered for the next two weeks, month, quarter, year - even five years, if we need. How? Team Velocity. This should be part of the process that has been in place all year.

Note: If you aren’t sure what I’m referring to, may I encourage you to research the information on AgileDad (for free!) and take the Product Owner certification course (CSPO). You will never forget the importance of velocity again. You will also learn about MoSCOW, grooming a product backlog, and roadmap planning. Most importantly you will see how: (Future topic alert!) “It’s all about Perspective and the Relationships” of the Agile team with each other, ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and in turn with executive management. Enough cannot be said about having high-quality communication between all of the roles in the Agile Landscape (PO FA TA BA SM + More!)

If you are a Product Owner (PO), you likely have a team of Product Owners, focused on various products.PO to PO communications are deeply important. Transparent, clear Definitions are important in keeping communication channels open both down to the SCRUM teams and up the chain to Executive leadership. As an organization transforms into using Agile methodologies more fully, the annual planning will move from being a “head down, hair on fire” time to an annually planned collaborative session or two, complete with reports of what features are being planned on being delivered when over the course of the next year.


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