Opening Remarks: This article is the synthesis of our experience as Agile coaches and data gathered from Agile practitioners in our network. We do not have the presumption to cover every aspect of Agile complexity. We are gladfully welcoming feedback to start a conversation on any aspects that might spark your interest. 

Introduction on hands-on guide to avoid pitfalls in executing an Agile project
Pitfall #1: Losing faith in the team
Pitfall #2: Confusing agile and disorganization
Pitfall #3: Hiding yourself in the basement

Pitfall #4: Underestimating planning value 

One of the most popular myths about Agile is that there is no planning and no structure whatsoever. Well you could not be more wrong. In fact, planning is key to define and structure your product roadmap and share it with your agile teams. Contrary to traditional methods where you plan everything in detail at the very beginning of your project, agile methods offer you a more flexible approach to maintain Agile main values: adaptability and commitment to the product vision. 

In Agile, you have different levels of planning, but they all serve the same purpose: delivering added value for the business.   

  • Level 1: product vision 

Every Agile project starts with a first definition of the expected product by the business. This vision will help you detail the required features to be developed. Those features can then be linked together and create the releases you will plan, develop, and deliver. 

  • Level 2: release planning 

Any agile project is driven by releases. Each release is composed of a set of features to be developed within short iterations. Before development, it is crucial that you take time to plan your release to have an overall vision of what will be delivered during each iteration. Doing this exercise will also force you to previously collect all required elements: structured backlog, team composition and capacity, duration of iterations…   

  • Level 3: iteration planning  

You have planned your release, you have your team ready, now it is time to get into it! This planning meeting enables the team to align on the objectives of the iteration and to ensure there is sufficient team capacity to develop the selected backlog items. Be careful though not to fall into micro-management!  

  • Level 4: daily planning 

Once your iteration has started, you want to set up daily planning meetings for every teammate to do a quick update status on their work and state their plan for the day. Once again, you do not want to micro-manage the team. Instead, use this daily planning to see if anyone needs help to move forward!  

Thanks to these different planning levels, you will be able to foresee any change in customers’ needs and to readapt if necessary, to always deliver the most valuable backlog items.  

However, to avoid falling back in your old failings, bear in mind that there is no efficient planning when there is no roadmap prioritization. Indeed, before planning (whatever level you are at), take time to prioritize your features. To do so, we have often found the matrix below very useful. You must take into consideration 2 key criteria

1. Business value: will the feature bring value to my end-user?  

2. Technical complexity: is the feature hard to develop?  

 

Exhibit 1: Product roadmap prioritization matrix 

Thus, an easy feature with most added value must be your top priority, whereas a feature that does not bring any value and that is hard to implement will probably never see the light of day. Prioritization is key to a successful Agile product development.  

This article is part of a series of articles on Agile pitfalls and tips to avoid them. You will find the complete series here addressing People, Processes and Technology. Interested to know more on how to deal with process in an Agile context ? Discover the risks of not getting out of your Agile bubble.

Are you interested to work on Agile projects and support our clients in their digital transformation? We are hiring: check our job offer!

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