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how the year 2020 helped us to be agile

How the year 2020 helped us to be Agile?

The year 2020 has marked its name in the books of history forever as the events that occurred in this year were not expected by anyone. The pandemic shut down many companies and numerous people were out of jobs. Industries tried processing the changes due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the organizations that could adapt soon seem to survive and flourish. Agile Methodology is designed in a manner to modify according to any unanticipated situations. If anything this pandemic has taught us is that we must be prepared for anything that would occur in the future as there cannot be a guarantee for anything. Agile organizations have always promoted the idea of adapting to changes in the work process. Whether it is accepting alterations in the products or it is to work remotely, Agile has always supported changes in the work culture and has proved to thrive even in the pandemic. Let us understand more about how the year 2020 has helped us develop an Agile mindset and how it has changed the ways we work in Agile development.

What is Agile Methodology?

Agile Methodology is a set of principles where product development takes place iteratively. This methodology was born out of software development in 2001, with the development of the Agile Manifesto. Agile Manifesto is a guidance consisting of all the values and principles of Agile which are followed by various frameworks of Agile such as Scrum, Scaled Agile, Kanban, Lean-Agile, etc. Companies believe that innovation, speed, and customer-oriented approach for product development and delivery is the best way to process, and Agile Methodology fulfills all the criteria required. Industries that have embraced Agile comprehensively throughout their organizations are proven to be a few of the most successful companies in the present day.

Agile Manifesto- Values and Principles

The Agile values and principles are the foundation philosophies on which all software development is based. There are four Agile values and twelve Agile principles. They are:

The four Values of Agile mentioned in the Agile Manifesto:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

The Twelve Principles of Agile are:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. 
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. 
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Empiricism- How the entire world inspected and adapted?

As we have understood the basics of Agile Methodology, let us know more about how the world has adapted to the COVID-19 crisis by being Agile and using the Agile mindset. Agile has always encouraged empiricism as it believes that all the knowledge we gather from real-world experience is useful when we could apply it practically. Here are a few reasons why the world inspected and adapted Agile and how did companies manage to do so. 

  • Agile provides cadence and rhythm for work. If the tasks seem ambiguous, and the job that needs to be done is not certain, Agile provides a structure that the team needs to follow to keep moving forward. 
  • Agile teams use virtual stand-ups and conduct team meetings where each member’s work is reviewed and proper guidance is given about what is more important for the immediate present. This gives a state of normalcy in the team’s mind and helps them to continue with the project.
  • Organizations can make quick shifts to the projects and re-adjust priorities such that the content of the work is beneficial for the customer. The work that needs to be completed can be broken down into several units, and one-piece could be accomplished at a time. 
  • When teams complete one-by-one, it gives the team a chance to correct any errors, and gives a sense of satisfaction, and helps them motivated to proceed towards the end goal, and this could be achieved even during the pandemic situation.
  • An advantage of Agile is that the team could be self-organizing; they can take decisions at the moment and need not wait for the manager’s approval. This ability of the members of sharing responsibility and having power over decisions helps the team to complete the project rapidly and have enhanced responsiveness to the customers’ needs.
  • The COVID created pressure and built an apt environment for teams to take responsibility and make decisions quicker than usual. 

As we understand this, we see how Agile has provided a stable platform for the Agile team members to work on and not having to face many difficulties of not being able to use the office space. Agile always promoted the idea of remote working and also working in smaller teams to enhance productivity. The method of working in Sprints and iteratively completing projects has helped many people to focus even during the covid crisis. The Agile mindset has also promoted a few incredible ideas that have enabled the enhancement of productivity in the team members. They are:

  • Time-boxing the work: Agile has introduced the concept of time-boxing the work where the team has to decide the maximum amount of time that it would require to complete a particular Sprint. As the popular phrase goes, “Work expands to fit the available time.” This method ensures that a particular task does not take more time than expected and also develops a sense of urgency to complete the tasks which are on high priority.
  • Inspecting and Adapting: Checking and assessing the work quality performed by the team members and adapting changes accordingly is one of the best parts of Agile Methodology. This method encourages the team members to partner and makes them give feedback to each other so that team members receive both external and internal feedback to improve their performance. 
  • Pausing and learning: There is high importance given to reviews and retrospectives in Agile processes as learning from past mistakes is highly important if one has to progress further in the project. The teams are encouraged to pause, reflect, and ensure that they learn continuously and adjust as per the requirements. This kind of evaluation gives team members a sense of direction in times where nothing seems to be predictable.
  • Simplicity: Agile encourages teams to make the right decisions on their own and make the process of product development simple. This approach makes a list of all the items that have to be accomplished and then the team prioritizes the work that has to be completed soon. This simple ordered list brings a sense of clarity in times of chaos. 

Remote working in Agile

One question that arises is how is Agile relevant to current work-from-home condition? A primary feature of Agile is that the projects assigned to a team could be completed from anywhere in the world. With the COVID crisis, everyone was forced to work from home and Agile helped them to stay productive. Agile was prepared for such a situation, and the teams could collaborate and complete projects through virtual means. Few strategies such as keeping the video and audio on while working together virtually have been suggested by Scrum Alliance, which is an organization that created products using Agile approaches. Virtual connections are just as fine to get the work done when the team members work with motivated intention and commitment. 

Remote working in Agile is the new normal way of processing product development and delivery. Most of the companies have encouraged this approach as the team members in each team need not come to the office every day. This implies that the Agile team could consist of experts who could work from anywhere in the world. This enriches the quality of the Agile team as there would be professionals who would know in and out of the process and the product. Remote working Agile teams could be efficient as the teams who work together in the office by following steps that would increase their productivity. Remote working creates a new culture among team members, and it is up to the servant leader to help them interact with each other and make them trust one another. Casual conversations and outside work hours are encouraged even if the working is remote. This helps the team members know each other and helps them become a self-organizing team. Choosing the correct equipment, reviewing the deployment frequency, not committing to complex projects, making sure that everyone is on the same page during the Sprint meetings are also a few of the factors that would help remote working Agile teams to become efficient.

Upskilling Remotely

The year 2020 has also helped everyone realize that one does not necessarily need to go to coaching classes to gain knowledge and skills; it could be gained by attending classes online from the comfort of their homes. The pandemic made everyone stay at home, which gave many people more time that might have spent traveling to the office or attending get-togethers. During this time, many individuals took up online classes and certification courses which helped them increase their knowledge in their respective professions. The courses helped people gain skills which they could apply in their careers to move ahead. Professionals attended various webinars and coachings where many experts from all around the world shared their knowledge and experience. In the Agile industries, the individual with more knowledge is always respected and reputed and also these individuals get more preference during recruitments.

2020 helped many people gain skills that are required for their professional and personal growth. With the availability of many courses and content online, many people also worked on not only their technical skills but also their soft skills. Professionals brushed up their public speaking skills by taking in webinars, gained knowledge about courses that are different from what they are working on, and gained additional knowledge. The times are still unprecedented however, one thing that 2020 has taught us all is that knowledge is abundant and one cannot be full with all the knowledge. As Agile promotes its members to seek knowledge, 2020 surely helped people achieve it. 

Balance Between Professional and Personal Lives

The present crisis has forced everyone to stay inside and work and promoted the work from home culture. This culture comes with many pros and cons as employees struggle to maintain their work commitments with their busy lives at home. Here is where the concept of maintaining an equilibrium between the professional and personal lives becomes inevitable. The work from a home culture has reduced the travel time to the office, but it has also increased the workload on the employees. People often get so involved in their work that they are not able to focus on their personal lives while working from home. When the employee’s work-life balance is disrupted, it affects the effectiveness of the organization, decreases turnover rates, and there is a low productivity rate in the organization. There could also be an influence on the well-being of the employees with the lack of engagement, absenteeism, and lack of poor retention levels. 

Agile Methodology introduced the concept of flexible work hours rather than fixing to a particular period such that employees can organize their work and balance their personal lives according to their necessity. A supportive manager who understands the need of differentiating between personal and professional lives and knows the importance of giving flexible work hours would add to the productivity and well-being of the employee. Here are few ways in which Agile motivates to make a balance between the two lives:

  • Understanding the strengths: Agile vitalizes the importance of excelling at one particular trait rather than being a master of all the trades. Focusing on the strengths and outsourcing others can make the job of the employee much simpler. This works productively when a team with different strengths come together and work on a specific project.
  • Prioritizing work: Making a list of Product Increments that have to be integrated into the product and prioritizing the urgent and important work would help the people to focus on important tasks. This could be applied individually where people could make a to-do list and finish the tasks for the day and have the rest of the day for themselves.
  • Tapping into technology: Make a list of tasks in your personal life that could be done using technology such as paying bills and picking up groceries. This would help you preserve time and use that for your relaxation. 
Conclusion

The year 2020 had a tremendous effect on all the ways of working in not only Agile industries but also to every business in the world. It is moments like these we realize that the ability to adapt to change as quickly as possible is the only way to survive any unprecedented times. Agile Methodology was ready for changes which could be seen in the way product development and delivery operations were handled during the pandemic. We could see how Agile used the concept of empiricism and inspected and adapted the changes of the new normal. A huge benefit of Agile was the concept of remote working which was already introduced before the crisis and became a life-saver for companies during the crisis. Also, the concepts of Agile encouraged employees to implement improvements in their every-day lives which would help in managing their professional and personal lives and balance their achievements. Overall, the year 2020 has been a game-changer in many industries and now it is up to those who could adapt to the changes faster that could survive in the market.

References

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2020/04/12/why-agile-is-the-mindset-to-get-us-through-the-covid-crisis-4-lessons-from-agile-for-today-and-the-new-normal/
http://bwpeople.businessworld.in/article/Relevance-Of-Work-Life-Balance-In-2020/19-03-2020-186606/
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/revisiting-agile-teams-after-an-abrupt-shift-to-remote

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