In many tech companies across the world Agile has transformed into an industry, rather than a set of values and principles to aid teams in adapting to the rapidly changing atmosphere of software development. Companies see the benefits of an Agile workplace and decide to transition without a clear understanding of what a working solution looks like. The focus lies on churning out work faster, not on solving the way teams produce work.
These companies are used to lots of processes in order to successfully manage a large amount of employees. However, strict processes do not play nicely with a constantly evolving environment. Agile methodologies dictate that you should prioritize people over process. Companies view Scrum as strictly a replacement for Waterfall and how teams should organize their work. A lot more is involved to truly become an Agile company.
One of the largest problem areas when transitioning to Agile occurs in meetings. Companies often view meetings as a core part of the Agile process. Out of the box Scrum is loaded with a variety of meetings including daily standups, grooming, planning, and retrospectives. Each of these can occupy a lot of time if they are not executed correctly. Oversize teams, lack of focus, and frequent meetings all exacerbate problems.
Teams size can vary greatly across companies and even within different departments in the same company. Larger teams can accomplish more work and cut down on the number of meetings, right? Wrong. Team size has a multiplying effect on the length of meetings. While you might save yourself in number of meetings you are actually wasting more hours of everyone's time. One team of twelve people meeting for a two hour planning takes twenty four employee hours. Two teams of six people meeting separately for a one hour planning takes twelve employee hours.
By splitting your team of twelve in half you save your company twelve employee hours per sprint, just for planning. With such a large team many of the participants will not be involved in the majority of the work being planned, so it does not make sense to include so many people. Make sure your teams do not become unnecessarily large. If many team members are not participating in meetings, it may be time to split.
Lack of Focus
It is easy to lose focus in a meeting and forget what you set out to accomplish. At some point you were probably in a meeting and witnessed a coworker going off on a tangent not directly related to the meeting. One common example of this is the blurring of boundaries in grooming meetings. Often times the level of detail discussed in grooming is far beyond necessary to assign story points to work. If developers have not discussed a set of work before entering a grooming meeting, they are likely to spend a lot of time arguing how work should be executed. There are often times stakeholders or a scrum master attending a grooming and not receiving value from the meeting. Clearly laying out meeting objectives before beginning a meeting can help your team stay on track. By setting the expectation that a grooming meeting should discuss high level objectives and potential complications, you avoid dragging out a meeting and take away far more value.
Holding meetings solely to follow a process can create meeting apathy. Often times there are multiple stakeholders for a project. This may result in many meetings taking place before approving the work. Many times these meetings rehash issues raised in previous meetings or do not provide a clear end goal of the meeting. It is important to evaluate the value derived from every meeting. If you begin to suspect some of your meetings are not providing the value they should, it might be time to raise the issue in your retrospective. A retrospective is the ideal place to bring into question what parts of your sprint might need adjustments. We've created a tool called Retro Rabbit to allow teams the ability to easily track retrospective notes during the sprint all through Slack. Make sure you don't forget about areas of improvement you notice during the sprint. If you fail to raise these issues in your retrospective they might never be resolved.
Find Your Golden Egg
Your workplace may not transform into a fairy tale, but after some trial and error your team should be able to find balance in team size and hold more productive meetings. Make sure to take full advantage of retrospectives. They will provide your team with a platform to expose areas that require more immediate attention. Be sure to look out for the warning signs during meetings that your team may be too large. Also challenge your team to stay on track during meetings. Do not be afraid to interrupt a meeting and ask if the discussion is going in the right direction. This will set a precedent for a much healthier working culture that you will never look back from.