Organising your Agile approach is just like planning a wedding

…..…and before you read on, I want to assure you the similarities aren’t due to extreme high costs, hiring of suits and the need for a table plan!

Do what’s right for you
Weddings have come a long way in the last 10–30 years, no longer are we constrained by what the parents decree must be done, the options are endless; from underwater ceremonies to Lord of the Rings themed wedding days.

This reasoning translates directly to Agile approaches and the way in which you adopt and change your process.

Every business is different, even in the same sector, the people, structure and current state of development will be a different challenge when introducing or improving the existing Agile approach. There’s no one size fits all solution. If your organisation has no experience or concept of Agile, it’s worth starting the transition with an ‘out of the box’ experience using the Scrum or Kanban guidelines….but the key-word here is ‘guidelines’, they’re not hard and fast rules.

But you have to….

I’m sure everyone who’s been involved in planning a wedding has heard uttering of this dreaded phrase, from the (soon to be) mother-in-law to the local florist.

This phrase is often used when discussing your Agile process, you have to carry out retrospectives at the end of each sprint, or you have to maintain a manual task board because (this) Scrum book says so. The only thing you must or have to do is remember to step back from your day-to-day running of the process and ask yourself, why are you doing certain activities? What are you trying to achieve?

An excellent analogy and “improvement” I have witnessed at weddings is the photo booth concept, allowing guests to take pictures of themselves, preventing the need for lengthy formal posing and heavy use of the photographers time. In the past, we would’ve been told, you have to get a picture of all your guests. What this actually means is, you want to get pictures of all your guests to remember the amazing day, the photo booth achieves this in a more effective (and enjoyable) way.

The you have to phrase is often used in relation to the Agile manifesto which is a misinterpretation. The manifesto mentions…

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

…but a vital part of the manifesto is in the line above these “…we have come to value”. Without this, people often take these manifesto items literally. I often hear people say “we don’t need a process because we have individuals and interactions” or (a personal favourite) “we don’t have to do any documentation, just check the Agile manifesto”.

So much like a wedding, when you’re being told you must have two dozen bridesmaids, you must have a 4 tier cake and you must have a first dance. These are not strict rules, but more guidelines based on what’s worked well for people before.

Remember the people
The final parallel with wedding planning is always remember the people! Sweeping change across a wedding plan or a software development process can be very dangerous. Dramatic change can alienate key players who you want onboard to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible…and get the budget approved!

Decision making is very important but so is information sharing, to ensure everyone feels involved and they’re not being dictated to. Your future mother-in-law hearing the Imperial March from Star Wars, as her daughter walks down the aisle during the wedding rehearsal, is probably not the best way to inform her of the plans. Informing and explaining that you want the wedding to be a fun / informal day and you want some of your passions and interests involved in the day is a better way to go. Mother-in-law is then better placed to understand the reason for it and (is less likely) to push back.

The same informing+explaining approach is applicable for various stakeholders and management. Explaining why you carry out Planning Poker estimates to senior managers is a good step…before they witness all their developers sitting in a room “playing cards” at 10am on a Tuesday morning.

So overall just remember there are no rules, just guidelines and enjoy what comes next, be it a wedding, Agile transformation or both!

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