Agile Indy

Last night at the Agile Indy meeting I learned a little bit about what Agile is. At it’s core it’s a focus on people and teams power to get things done by communicating. Agile facilitates that movement from the individual to the team and from idea to implementation. It’s similar to lean principals when it comes to short, iterative product development cycles.

Retrospectives

We did what they call a “retrospective” which involves these steps:

  • Brainstorm
  • Cluster
  • Prioritize
  • Action
  • Commit

For the brainstorming session, we were looking for topics the group wanted to discuss or cared about. We used the default star-pattern of, “What do you want to…

  • = Stay the same
  • > Do more of
  • < Do less of
  • – Stop doing (it’s hurting us)
  • + Start doing

The brainstorming is done with a “one-in-hand” post-it note process where everyone writes one thing, then puts it on a wall or board. The “Cluster” process then uses the team to sort the post-it notes into categories using the same “one-in-hand” method. Seven random people are then asked to assign the clusters into seven different categories. The group then is allowed two dots each to assign importance to the categories. One dot on two categories or two dots on one is allowed. The two most popular categories then go into discussion and from that discussion, 5 action items are created. The last step is to commit these action items to being done and completed.

This is just one part of Agile. There are terms like SCRUM and SPRINT, neither of which I know what they mean (yet). I recently wrote about the Agile meetup as part of the broader category of what meetups mean to me, but I felt there was enough material from last night’s meeting that it deserved it’s own post.

The most popular book on Agile in Amazon doesn’t even mention Agile in the title. Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, is a book about achieving breakthrough results by, “methodically taking small, experimental steps in order to discover and develop new ideas.” The author, Peter Sims, researched what went on behind the scenes of some of the great achievements and innovations we witness in today’s world. He said, “Most of them weren’t the epiphanies of geniuses, but instead the result of masters of a specific type of experimentation. To find out the common elements of their experimental approach, I reviewed empirical and neuroscience research about creativity and innovation, and interviewed or observed dozens of people about their approach, including Army counterinsurgency strategists, architect Frank Gehry, agile software development teams, stand-up comedians, entrepreneurs who had self-financed billion dollar businesses, the rapidly growing field of design thinking, and musicians like John Legend, as well as executives inside a range of organizations such as Amazon, Pixar, Procter & Gamble, Google, 3M, General Motors, and Hewlett Packard.” As one reviewer wrote, “Constant experimentation (‘learn by doing’) is fundamental to this approach – and I would add, fundamental to Agile.

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