Learnings from a project inception

Agile is simple but not easy

When I was learning about Agile and people around were saying it is simple but not easy my initial reaction was “yeah, right, what can be hard with harnessing few common sense principles?” After some time in this space. Once again I was reminded why I was wrong.

Agile is simple, principles are simple, frameworks are relatively lightweight, and come one, it’s just a common sense - isn’t it? Yes, it is. But this common sense is being constantly challenged by a human factor, by all those people with great ideas and good intentions thinking about the same thing - in a different way. That makes it really hard to master.

So, I was facilitating an activity today focused on creating a Definition of Done and a Definition of Ready for my new team. Session was supposed to take 30 minutes. I wanted to come with some new idea how to do it - I’ve done my homework, read a nice chapter about helping a team in building a Definition of Done. In fact when I was reading that chapter I thought - “wow, that is bulletproof”. Couldn’t be more wrong.

After over 2 hours of a very vivid brainstorming, the team came with both definitions. In between, I felt like we were going circles, opening closed doors and throwing more and more ideas that were increasing complexity of our definitions. On the other hand, I’m not sure if confidence put in them was growing along with increasing complexity.

Could we have a simple definition that would help us go in the first sprint? I don’t know. After 2 hours, most of the room energy was gone, some people were still arguing about semantics and we had to cut the discussion.

Learnings from today:

  • Clearly express what is an expected outcome of a workshop you facilitate
  • Set up and communicate a timebox for an exercise - duh!
  • It’s an Agile - start small and improve your definitions over time. Finding the best one on a day 1 makes no sense.
  • Even most bulletproof ideas have to be practiced
  • Don’t worry, clear your head, talk to people about how they found your facilitation and do better next time
  • Get a coach or a mentor - it helps a lot when you can challenge your ideas with someone experienced (even after the fact)

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