Agile and its application in Communications have become a hot topic recently. However, the concept has assumed a somewhat nebulous form. That often happens because communicators don’t have much experience with Agile. They know they want it, but they aren’t sure where to start.
Earlier this year, our research team ran a project on Agile in Communications to help clients implement it and reap its multiple benefits. Based on that research, here are the 3 steps for running a successful Agile pilot project.
Plan the Project
When selecting a project, identify the breadth of project types your team delivers. Look for variability in project timelines, stakeholder dependencies, team size and capabilities required. You will need to run multiple pilots with different project types to fully explore Agile’s functionality.
Then, select your Agile practices. Start with two or three at most, such as sprints and a Kanban Board, for example. Look at how work is scheduled, team members’ openness to new ways of working, and degree of Agile education to help you select practices that are likely to work for your team’s particular needs.
Staffing is a critical step here. Your pilot team should include individuals with project and subject-matter expertise, as well as people with enthusiasm for experimenting with new ways of working. You may also want to include team members with considerable professional and/or social influence to facilitate adoption. If capacity allows it, staff participants full-time to the pilot to avoid the challenge of having to switch between Agile and usual ways of working.
Team accountability is one of the features that sets Agile apart from other types of workflow.
So, have the pilot team write a team charter aligning on what they will do and how they will do it. Then, reflect together on your goals (e.g., increased collaboration, speed, higher-quality work) and select measures that will show whether the pilot has helped to progress toward these goals.
Manage the Pilot Project
Once your pilot team is in place, it’s time to educate them on Agile practices and ways of working. They need to understand the processes that they will use, as well as the underlying Agile principles and mindset. An Agile coach might be very useful here.
Regular team reflections are crucial to identify successes and barriers in the process.
Create recurring opportunities for the team to surface what’s working or isn’t. For instance, if the team is using retrospectives, a portion of those meetings can be allocated to that discussion.
As you go along and celebrate your team’s successes, make sure you’re documenting it all. This could be in the form of a playbook or guidance to inform future projects. A living document like that could be updated with additional lessons or best practices that the team discovers through ongoing experimentation.
Conclude the Project and Plan Next Steps
Reviewing your objectives and measures at the end of the pilot project will ensure you’re set up for future success. Remember to assess progress not just against quantitative measures. Gathering qualitative feedback from the pilot team members can reveal on-the-ground blind spots. Factor in the experience of the broader team, as well, to gauge everyone’s readiness for possible Agile expansion.
Based on all the evidence you gain in your review, consider what your next steps might be. You could pilot another project that is similar to the initial one to iterate on documented best practices. Or, you could pilot a project with different dimensions. That way, if the team had success with the initial project, they can pressure-test learnings in a new setting. This step will be necessary if you’re hoping to expand Agile to multiple project types.
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