Agile Reflections

After 5 months of intense requirements gathering, business modeling, database development, unit testing, and deployment packaging I finally feel comfortable enough to take a moment to reflect on some notes I’ve taken.

Agile project management demands a charismatic, detailed, and diligent leader. If none can be found, a diligent leader will do.

The environment I’m currently working in is a petri dish of development and integration projects, all under some level of “Agile” methodology. Most projects are proceeding as planned, some are more troubled than others. All of the projects on task have a charismatic leader. The data warehouse project is definitely a poster child for successful Agile management, largely due to our exceptionally charismatic and gracefully sacrificial scrum master. While I’m a huge fan of his leadership style, I have seen the negative outcome of polar opposite project leaders, which is my next thought:

Power hungry people usually* feed themselves first.

As an eternal optimist, I rarely use absolutes. However I must admit that my experiences have shown that power hungry people always feed themselves first – and last! Although keeping your head down, staying on mission, and looking for opportunities to grow business sound like a page out of Brown-Nosing For Dummies, the impact of extreme selfishness in the workplace can be detrimental to morale, schedule, and cost simultaneously.

Don’t be afraid to send an email twice, call sooner than necessary, or take an impromptu walk over to someone’s desk.

One unique challenge we face is our team is geographically separated. The stakeholders, customers, and I are located in Kentucky while the rest of the development team and program leads are in Florida. The separation puts an extra helping of communication activities on my shoulders and has lead me to realize how important it is to initiate, follow-up on, and finalize discussions.

Book people’s time whenever possible.

With so many requirements to implement my requirements gathering has had to be methodical and concise. One hack I stumbled upon early was to actually block off a person or group’s time with meetings. Sure, we all hate meetings but our team’s approach has been to block off time with groups as open discussion hours. Sometimes we have large crowds, other times not, but we always jump on the telecon and discuss issues when they arise. This has been a hugely beneficial practice both in engaging stakeholders and staying on top of project tasks. In essence we treat these forums as subject-specific scrums. Personally I like to force subject matter experts into committing to one-on-one appointments regularly. I feel like both the SME and I take the discussion more seriously and are better prepared than an ad-lib’d reactionary chit-chat or poorly thought out email chain.

Spend 10 mins bringing up a wild idea to a manager vs 10 building interpersonal relationships every once in a while. Don’t be afraid of letting your personality show!

While we are all working toward a common goal, we are also individuals with intrinsic desires and dreams for the work of our hands. Too often coworkers get caught in a rut of loathing pet peeves and annoyances that are common in most any job. Instead of focusing on what is holding you back, give management an earful of where you could take the place! As the saying goes, it is lonely at the top – I think this absolutely applies to managers. Connecting with leadership and vocalizing your desires gives your superiors a chance to do the side of their job they wish they could do more of; cultivate a workplace full of opportunity, happiness, and ultimately, efficiency. Sure, you’ll find managers that are just doing “a job”, but I’d wager a majority have just as many dreams (and things holding them back) as their subordinates.

What are your thoughts on workplace relationships, Agile methodology, or communication etiquette and hacks?

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