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Project Management

How to Implement Agile Using Agile Principles

You’ve just been hired as the first agile leader or practitioner for a software development organization. Congratulations! Even better news: the company is already convinced that it wants to adopt agile. Perfect! Just one catch, though. It doesn’t use Agile at all right now, and nobody else on your team has any experience with it.

Trying to bring Agile to a whole organization at once is beyond anyone’s abilities. But it’s certainly possible to get your team on board. And once you’ve planted the seed, it’s incredible how much it can grow. Fortunately, Agile can work with you here rather than against you.

As the first agile hire, the best way to implement agile on your team is to use three fundamental principles of agile:

  • The Law of the Small Team
  • The Law of the Customer
  • The Law of the Network

And by leveraging agile’s responsiveness and flexibility with the right tools, you can apply these key principles to start your agile transformation.

Agile Transformation Step 1: Start with The Law of the Small Team

If you’re wondering how to implement agile to a team for the first time, you want to start small: small teams, small steps, and small goals.

First and foremost is the small team. Depending on how many people are on your team, small might be everyone. But maybe you want to start with a subset of your team first. Whichever you decide, the key is that you want the team to feel small enough. If it’s feeling like your team has the maximum number of people you can manage, that’s not small.

Three people on an agile team gathered around computer laughing

Using flexible and responsive agile project management tools can help you keep your team small and keep everyone thinking small. And having dedicated, customizable boards will help you visualize and segment work effectively. If you all have control over what you can see at any time, it will be much easier to stay focused.

It’s also essential to keep your goals small. Don’t try to tackle the absolute limit of what you think is possible: goals should feel small, too. And since the agile principles are scalable, once your team has had a chance to practice them on something lower priority or less complex, it can start to apply them to more extensive and complex projects.

Finally, keep the scope small as well. Don’t chart out an entire year of work using the agile format. Agile, after all, is all about flexibility and being able to pivot as things change quickly. Start with one to a few sprints. Try it out, see how it goes, then take stock and plan the next run. Think in sprints, not marathons.

Agile Transformation Step 2: Focus on The Law of the Customer

One of the reasons Agile is so effective is because it recognizes the primacy of the customer and is structured to help teams meet the customers’ needs. In the age of instant gratification, few things are more important than quickly identifying and satisfying customers.

In the case of how to introduce agile to an organization, your team members are your customers.

To keep your customers happy, you need to know how they’re doing. Stay in close contact with them as they’re trying out agile. Create opportunities to offer feedback with retrospectives and check-ins on what aspects of agile are working for them and which ones aren’t. At Zenhub, we’re a big believer in adapting agile to work for your team. You could call us agile realists. While this is counter to what agile purists recommend, most of our customers have the most success adapting aspects of agile to their team’s unique processes.

Man in a virutal meeting with a customer

Also, make sure to keep an eye on your team’s progress—don’t count on them to tell you everything. Not because they don’t want to but because if they’re anything like me, they only remember the most important thing they wanted to say after the meeting. Using a tool that offers these kinds of insights with robust reporting and full integration capabilities, particularly one purpose-made for agile, makes tracking progress much more straightforward.

Remember, agile is a buffet, not a straitjacket. Your team should pick and choose the parts that work for them. As time goes on, they can adopt more if it helps. But every agile practice you implement should deliver value.

Agile Transformation Step 3: Build on The Law of the Network

Whether you’re in the process of implementing agile with your team or your team is fully integrated, and you’re bringing other teams on board, it’s critical for all developers to stay coordinated. Agile practices should be implemented at multiple tiers. Teams or developers operating in silos won’t be able to leverage the full strength of agile.

Tooling is especially important for this. Ensure your developers have the tools they need to communicate and coordinate easily. Finding opportunities for automation and asynchronous ways of communicating is critical. By eliminating busywork and human error, developers can stay focused on their primary work and make coordination convenient.

P.S. Did you know nearly half of developers spend less than 20 hours per week on actual development tasks? Check out our blog on 5 Developer Productivity Metrics Every Product Leader Needs to Know for more shocking developer productivity metrics.

Choose a purpose-built agile software development project management tool

Zenhub is an agile project management tool that offers what agile teams need to thrive and implement it fast. Built with agile principles in mind, it’s flexible and customizable, enabling your team to sample and scale agile practices with ease.

Screenshot of a Zenhub workspace board

Customizable boards and visibility make starting a team on agile easy, while automated sprint planning makes sprinting a cinch. Meanwhile, robust reporting features, including velocity and burndown charts, simplify tracking your team’s progress. Full integration lets you stay in close contact with your team on every step of your agile journey. Finally, workflow automation, asynchronous planning poker, and centralized repos make it easy to keep teams coordinated, internally and externally.

If you’re looking to make the leap to agile, we can help. Sign up today!

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