12/20/2019
By
MJV Team

Agile Mindset: How to Use Sprints to Streamline Projects

Agile mindset is very popular in the business world. It is a response to the constant market changes, with special attention paid to rapid technological innovation.

In this article, we decided to reflect deeply on the subject.

Keep reading to see how successful executives are achieving results in their everyday business through incorporating agile methodologies like SCRUM!

The agile mindset

Before we get into the agile mindset, we need to remember that it is linked to Agile Philosophy.

Agile Philosophy came from the Agile Manifesto, when a small group of people got together in 2001 to discuss their feelings about the traditional approach to project management for software development.

At the time, experts created the Manifesto, which showed the need to value four fronts:

  1. Individuals and interactions about processes and tools.
  2. Software that works with broader range of documentations.
  3. Customer collaboration on contract negotiation.
  4. Quick responses, changes throughout the project following a plan.

From this, several methodologies were created. They are basically approaches to accelerating and improving quality in application development. In recent times, they have also been employed to transform corporate departmental functions and project management practices.

A standout among agile frameworks is SCRUM, which we will detail further on.

In general, when we talk about an agile mindset, we are talking about a management mindset that is repetitive, divided into stages and management incremental. The manager who relies on it — and seeks to develop it in his team — focuses on helping teams in an evolving scenario. And it’s easy to stay focused on quick delivery of commercial value.

The agile mindset is based on:

  1. continuous improvement, flexibility
  2. continuous delivery of quick results
  3. High quality
  4. error mitigation

SCRUM and Sprints: what they are and how they work

As we have already mentioned, one of the most important agile methodologies within the agile philosophy is SCRUM.

But what is SCRUM?

It is a repetitive and incremental structure of agile software development. It was designed to help teams manage development processes.

Although it was born in the software industry, it is widely used in many other industries.

What’s great about SCRUM is that it emphasizes collaboration, functional product/service and flexibility in adapting to changes. Transparency, inspection and adaptation are keywords when talking about SCRUM. Process, workflow and progress are always visible from end-to-end.

What are the main functions of a SCRUM team?

A team created and managed under the agile SCRUM method has the following functions:

Product Owner (PO)

The product owner represents the customer, it has the strategic vision of what needs to be built. One of its main roles is to clear the goals for the scrum team.

It is the only one that has the product backlog and prioritizes the order of items. However, this does not mean that it’s the one that chooses how it will or how much will be done during the sprint.

Scrum Master

A Scrum Master helps The Product Owner and the team to understand their common goals and make plans on how to achieve them.

He is a consultant and a coach for both parties and ensures that the team achieves its sprint goals.

Because the team is self-organized, the scrum master must remain neutral. He’s a collaborator, not an authority.

Team

The team is self-organized, and its members are responsible for completing the user stories that have been defined. You should always ensure to add value to the product.

One of their tasks is to provide estimates for each sprint and decide how the job will be done.

How a sprint works

Getting more specific in the use of Sprints, here’s how to apply this approach in your day-to-day life.

Start of the sprint

Each sprint starts with a planning meeting. During the meeting, the product owner (the person requesting the job) and the project team agree on what will be done during the sprint.

The team has the final word when it comes to determining how much work can be realistically accomplished during the sprint. And the product owner has the final say on what criteria need to be met for the work to be approved and accepted.

Sprint duration time

The duration of a sprint is determined by the team facilitator. When the team reaches a consensus on how many days a sprint should last, all future sprints should have the same duration — ideally, up to a week; definitely less than a month.

During the sprint

After the start of a sprint, the PO must back off and let the team do its job. The team holds daily stand up meetings to discuss progress and discuss solutions to challenges.

The product owner can attend these meetings as an observer but should not interfere unless it is to answer questions.

The product owner cannot make requests for changes during a sprint and only the facilitator or project manager has the power to stop the sprint.

End of the Sprint

At the end of the sprint, the team presents the completed work to the PO and he uses the criteria set in the sprint planning meeting to accept or reject what was delivered.

Why agile practices should be on your company’s radar

Check out the advantages that make agile practices something that should be on the radar of your business. To better exemplify this, let’s use project management as an example.

High quality products and services

In agile practices, the test is integrated into the cycle. This means that there are regular checks to see if the product or service is working during its development.

In this approach, the PO can make changes if necessary, and the team will be aware whenever there is a problem.

Here are some essential activities to ensure quality of products and services, according to agile philosophy:

  • define and develop just in time requirements so that the knowledge of the product characteristics is as relevant as possible.
  • incorporate continuous integration and daily tests during the project, allowing the team to resolve issues while they are still current.
  • take advantage of automated testing tools.
  • conduct sprint retrospectives, allowing the team to continuously improve the processes and the task.
  • complete the work using a definition such as: developed, tested, integrated and documented.
  • develop the product or service in quick and incremental cycles. This results in small incremental versions, with each release based on previous functionality.
  • test each version exhaustively to ensure that the quality  is maintained.

Increased customer satisfaction

The product owner (internal or external client) is always involved. Besides that, the progress is highly visible and it’s very important to have the flexibility to change. 

For this to happen, some basic activities are carried out:

  • demonstrate product functionality (or parts of the project, whether is product, service or process) to customers in all sprint reviews.
  • deliver products to the market faster and more often with each launch.
  • give customers early access to the product during the life cycle.
  • keep customers involved and engaged at all stages of the project.

Increased project control

  • Regular sprint meetings (short activities in which inspection and revisions are very important).
  • Transparency.
  • Ensuring visibility of each project step for both parties involved.

Reduced risks

Agile mindset virtually eliminates the chances of absolute project failures.   And this is guaranteed by the following activities:

  • always have a product/service running, starting with the first sprint, so that no agile design fails completely.
  • develop in sprints, ensuring a short period of time between the initial investment in the project and failing quickly, to correct as quickly as possible.
  • generate revenue in advance with self-financing projects, allowing the project to pay for low initial expenses.
  • adapting to customer needs and preferences.
  • user stories with business-focused acceptance criteria to define product or service features.
  • focus on the needs of real customers, offering incremental value in each resource created.
  • Test parts and/or prototypes before moving on to the next phases, preferably under the customer’s gaze.

Faster return on investiment (ROI)

The fact that the agile approach is repetitive means that resources are delivered in stages. Therefore, the benefits are perceived early while the product or service is still in the process of development.

    • development begins early.
    • a functional “market-ready” product is generated after a few steps;
    • short and accurate delivery cycles.
  • Quick releases and the ability to assess customer reaction to make changes quickly —preferably ahead of the competition.
  • Focusing on the value of the business. By allowing the customer to determine the priority of the resources, the team understands what is most important to the customer’s business and can provide a more valuable product/service.

Have you ever put the Agile mindset in place in your business projects? Did you like the reflection we brought here? Leave your comments below! If you want to dive deeper into the subject, download our e-books now: DT + Agile and Sprint Design.

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