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Do we have to use the agile ceremonies and artefacts to adopt Agile?

 

Image: doorjamb, temple, Ramesses II, Thebes, Asasif, NK

The quick answer is – No.  You don’t.

Why?  Because they are simply recommended tools that have proven to get teams into Agile thinking a lot faster.   However you could do it other ways.  It may take longer, it may be frustrating,  but in the end you may get there without them.

Let’s explain.

PROCESS VS MINDSET

Agile ceremonies and artefacts are quintessential to (capital “A”) Agile methodology or process.    However, many people confuse the Agile process with the Agile mindset.

As Simon Jacobson says “If your organisation doesn’t have the collective habits to derive value from agile, then it will help a lot in your adoption.”

NEW WAY OF WORKING

Ceremonies and Artefacts fast track an organisation in the Agile way and a new way of working.  And that new way of working is being proven more and more, to lead to far greater productivity and far better outcomes.

Firstly, a quick review – what are ceremonies and artefacts in Agile terms?

In short, Ceremonies provide the framework for teams to get work done in a structured way.  They should empower the team (unlike some ‘meetings!).

Ceremonies include :

Sprint Planning,

the Daily Scrum,

Sprint Review and

Retrospectives.

Artefacts provide key information to the team in order to teams to understand the product in development in order to plan efficiently.   Artefacts would include product information like Sprint Goal,  Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog.

So to reiterate what we have said:

Don’t confuse the Agile process with the Agile mindset

To be clear – Process is just a way to help you understand and achieve the mindset.

So when looking at some of the core tools of Agile methods, you may think you need to ‘follow the rules’ , or else fail at Agile.   But that would be wrong.

This is why.

You don’t have to use agile ceremonies and artefacts to adopt agile.     

Evan Jago – our principle in the Adaptovate Sydney office says “Agile is fundamentally a set of 4 sound business practices:

  1. prioritise work and focus on the most vitally important result first,
  2. gather together all of the people with the skills and knowledge you need to get the work done,
  3. plan the components of what needs to get done ‘right now’ to deliver the most important result,
  4. start work on creating the result and have an ongoing rhythm of accountability to keep the delivery on track, on a regular basis test the result with your customer to ensure that results you are delivering are what the customer wants.

ALL BUSINESSES ARE DIFFERENT

How a business does that can be varied.    Agile Methodology was designed to fast track the understanding of doing those 4 points, and with it comes some great process and tools to get there a lot faster.

Evan suggests that if you aren’t getting the results then  “get together as a team on a semi-regular basis and consider together if there is a way you could have done things better”.

He says “None of the above needs to involve post-it notes, stand ups, kanban boards, etc.

In practice, though, it is far easier to adopt an existing implementation model for agile and adapt it for your businesses needs than it is to develop your own model starting from fundamental principles.”

“Agile ceremonies and artefacts have been developed to align and communicate in ways which are effective both in time and quality.” Steve Walton says.

As Chelsea Bates, our principle in Melbourne says – “Ceremonies alone do not make a team agile but they do help teams live out the cultural norm of a new way of working using agile principles.”

She continues, “Ceremonies such as retrospectives help the team reflect on a regular basis and adopt a continuous improvement approach.”

Steve Walton continues “Whilst there might be some tweaking to fit the organizational context or problem to be solved, the core functions of planning, aligning, obtaining feedback and reflecting to learn should be addressed.”

GETTING STARTED IN AGILE

Simon Jacobson says “When starting agile for the first time, especially in a traditional organisation with traditional functional structures and supporting behaviours for said structures, a change of context is really important.”

Agile ceremonies and artefacts act as a tangible change of situation for a group of people to behave and work differently.

Simon explains “Think about when you last tried to learn something completely new for the first time – how much guidance did you need to really get going? Ceremonies and artefacts are essentially a step by step guide for a group of people to build the right habits and practice how to work in a totally different way.”

In this case, it’s an agile way: regular planning for flexibility; delivering collaboratively regularly; involving feedback from customers regularly; reflecting on and improving process or team dynamics, again regularly.

Eventually the use of ceremonies and artefacts may morph, change, or even disappear, but the way your people collectively work together and make decisions will become very agile.”

Doug Ross is one of our co-founders at Adaptovate.  He says “Ceremonies need to be understood by leaders and where they can be adopted to show commitment to the new ways of working.”

However Doug Ross emphasises  “More importantly ADAPTOVATE believes there are 7 areas where leaders need to adjust their operating model to enable the benefits for an Agile way of working to thrive.

He outlines four of those areas here:

  1. governance structures and methods,
  2. funding mechanisms,
  3. training of new capabilities and expected behaviours, and
  4. objective alignment and cascading down into the organisation to name a few.

So, in the end, how you get your organisation thinking differently and operating in a new way is up to you as a leader.   However, we really believe – why re-invent the wheel?  Agile has solid tools and methods which will fast track this for you.  So while Ceremonies and Artefacts aren’t required to adopt Agile ways of working,  they have been found to greatly increase your teams chances of getting there.

Adatpovate would like to thank our following team members who contributed to this article:

Chelsea Bates – Principle at Adaptovate, Melbourne
Simon Jacobson – Consultant at Adaptovate, Sydney
Evan Jago – Principle at Adaptovate, Sydney
Doug Ross– Co-founder and Director at Adaptovate, and Senior Advisor at BCG
Steve Walton – Project Lead at Adaptovate, New York

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