Going Lean: Tips from the trenches

ScrumContinuous refinement is always in need when working in an agile delivery framework. The first thing you learn when you adopt a framework is that it does not work for all situations. Scrum, like other models, works really well in particular development situations. Sometimes, however, you need to transition your team to something leaner for a particular project that doesn’t fit into the regular delivery cadence.

The scenario

You nailed down a Scrum-like framework that allows your team to efficiently deliver large software development projects. You can adjust easily to changing requirements. You trigger feedback loops with your client and you can deliver what your client needs. However, some projects are coming up that do not fit into your standard model. They are smaller, have shorter timeframes, or have smaller budgets. What can you do?

Tip #1: Break away from iterations

If the scope and timeline have been greatly reduced, you won’t have time to go through your standard iterations. Unless you can fit in about four iterations, a Scrum-like model will just take too long to get your feedback from your client. Instead, consider moving to a more Continuous Delivery model where review is happening all the time. Try automating deployments and delivering to the client every few days and get feedback. If you only have four or six weeks to deliver, you can’t wait two or three weeks for the first round of feedback. Go faster! (Famous last words…)

Tip #2: Prototype first

Get something that isn’t “done” out for feedback. When you need to run a little leaner on budget or schedule, you might not have time for long design discussions and revisions on wireframes. Prototypes are richer than wireframes and closer to what will be delivered, so you can reduce the jump from prototype to delivered product. Riskier, but faster.

Tip #3: Leaner stories

By having stories that don’t define quite as many details, you can get stories into the developers’ hands faster. Combined with prototyping and continuous feedback, you can refine the details with the client as you go your accelerated timeframe.

Tip #4: Trim down on ceremonies

There are a lot of ceremonies in Scrum-like systems (team estimation, story planning, sprint retrospectives, etc.) that assume you are in a cadence that happens every few weeks. When you are working on a shorter timeline with less scope, you need to drop overhead of long meetings and instead move to continuous versions of these ceremonies. Discuss stories every day. Refine estimates and acceptance criteria daily. Gather retrospective-like feedback during the daily stand-up. Do less, more often!

Final tip: See what works for you!

The above are just a few things you can do to take your Scrum-like process and go to something a little leaner for a particular project. Just remember, you need to refine the process to what works for your team!

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