agile Adoption on a Non-Technical Team

I'm pretty excited about a new development at my office. Based on my team's success in increasing our productivity, efficiency and transparency, another team has decided to adopt "agile-like" practices. The most interesting thing is that this team isn't a technical team at all.

It's probably fair to say that what they're adopting is less like agile and more like lean. The goal was to increase visibility to their management structure on what the team was doing each day, increase the efficiency of their work, minimize interruptions of team members and raise problems earlier. To accomplish this, they have implemented a stripped-down version of Scrum, with the following practices:
  • Planning:
  • break-down of larger, more ambiguous mid- to long-term goals into shorter, more easily tracked tasks.
  • Daily Standup:
  • team stand-up meeting every day in the morning, with each team member answering "What did I do yesterday?", "What am I going to do today?" and "Is anything preventing me from getting things done?"
  • Scrum Board:
  • a week-long calendar set up inside the team's area in a highly trafficked place so that anyone else (including team managers!) can see at a glance how the team is doing without having to ask individual team members.
  • Retrospective:
  • periodic gathering of the team to discuss the new processes, how the processes are helping/hindering and what to change to make the team more efficient.
The team's goals are very different from that of a software development team, so we encouraged them to not follow our process dogmatically, and instead, to come up with methods that work for their team's unique needs (the core of "a"gile vs. "Agile".) For instance, my team operates on a 2 week sprint cadence (a new sprint every two weeks.) Their team receives the team goals on a monthly basis. Rather than adopt 2-week or 4-week sprints, they have chosen to break up the monthly goals into smaller and more transparent 1-week goals. This provides them with earlier warning if things start to go sideways, and provides motivation to not let things stack up until the end of the month.

Also, their work does not fit easily into "delivering feature or product X by the end of the month." Rather, they are tasked with having certain regions of the country covered by certain baselines of recruitment effort (for partner and vendor recruiting.) So the "User Stories" on their backlog are phrased as "15% coverage of NJ/NY metro area" or "Decrease turnover 10% in southern VA." Their tasks become things like calling or emailing specific contacts, setting up conference calls and facilitating the transition of a contact into a partner.

The Scrum board also has little stickers (a frog for their direct manager and Venom for her manager) that they can attach to a specific task to signal that they need additional help with an item. I think this is a neat idea, because it means that their managers don't have to ask them many times a day if everything is going smoothly. A quick glance at the Scrum board gives them the same information.

A few sprints ago, my team decided to start sharing a few minutes about our agile practices at each Sprint Review. I'm really glad to see that not only were people not spacing out (which I had feared they might) but were actually absorbing the information and thinking about how it could apply to their own team. I'm very excited to see how this new process works for our recruitment team.

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