Agile Process: Learn from History and Start Small

Getting started with an agile process

Each project has different starting conditions. When establishing an agile process, we should be aware of those conditions and set up the process accordingly. How to start depends mainly on the status of the project. To figure out what this is, it is helpful to ask the following questions:

  • Is the project about to start from scratch?
  • Does the project have a previous history? For example, has it been canceled before, and do all its hopes for success now rely on the new start using an agile process?
  • Is the project underway, but not running as smoothly as we’d like, and there’s no outcome in sight?
  • Was the project already underway, with everything going fine, when somebody had the idea that installing an agile process would be cool or might improve things?

The different answers to these questions influence not only the way the agile process will be set up but also the issues we will have to deal with. For example, if the project has failed before, and is now starting all over again, we will most likely find the whole team to be very frustrated about having their last few months of hard work thrown in the trash. Also, the people responsible for the failed project will probably not believe in the success of the restart. In this environment, we will find a lot of mistrust and frustration, paired with a desire to do everything differently than before. If the project is already successfully underway, but somebody wants to switch the process because they read in a magazine that agile processes are cool, we will find a lot of (justified) resistance to the change.

In other words, we need to make sure we understand the situation before we start unintentionally overwhelming the team.

Learn from history

Whatever the reason for switching to an agile process, we’ll always have to deal with people who have some experience in software development. One very rare exception is when the whole team has been assembled from individuals who have just left university. But because that situation is so rare, we do not want to cover this challenge.

Talk to individuals

Normally, the history or experience of each project member is a great and important source to learn from. Therefore, make use of this available experience. Depending on the size of the team, it is probably not possible to talk to each and every member individually. So we might have to consider using some group moderation techniques.

Get hands-on with 1200+ tech skills courses.