Agile methodology is all about one four-letter word

As I have engaged with clients in several different industries – financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, Software as a Service, and others – I am so impressed by the initial energy each firm puts into learning about agile methodology and their preferred pattern of implementation. Whether it be Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, or Spotify, everyone unilaterally focuses on the success of the new and “better way of working”!

Being an agile leader and coach, I continue to observe the importance of getting work done and the seemingly extraordinary struggle to do so. Traditional talking points of agile are that it is simple to understand and difficult to master given the required discipline and focus – why is that? 

One thought I include in nearly every conversation lately, regardless of role (e.g., product owners, Scrum Masters, team members, and executives), is the need to focus on simple one four-letter word – DONE! I share how getting to done is all that matters, and if you are not going to get done with what you committed, why make commitments at all; in fact, why have an agile transformation at all? Successful agile and Scrum need “done” to occur to create predictability. Without the ability to predict our course based on data, our “better way of working” will not be better at all; it will just become the newest way to frustratingly not achieve either organizational or team goals.

The definition of “done” and how it fits into agile methodology

Exploring this four-letter word in the context of agile methodology just a bit more: Websters Dictionary defines done as “arrived at or brought to an end.”With that definition, done feels so enabling, so successful, and so energizing. In Scrum teams, who has not witnessed the energy and enthusiasm of those who complete all the work of the sprint and conversely the disappointment and frustration of missing the goals set? Why then is it so hard to reach this pinnacle, to celebrate the “done-ness” of our work and the value we create for our customers?

To get to done, we require focus on the specific commitments of the sprint and to honor the selection of the items in the sprint backlog. We cannot deviate our focus or give energy or time to other distractions. Some of the most significant challenges teams face are drop-in work, interruptions, or additional requests that are not part of the sprint plan. How can we best fend off these impediments to success? 

My suggestion is as follows: 

  • For team members – Be strong! Managing new requests fall to the <role of product owner>, so resist the temptation to do the work. Even if it will only take a few hours, those hours add up and steal from the sprint!
  • For product owners and Scrum Masters – Ask what makes this request so vital? Why does it override what has already been agreed to as most important in sprint planning? Build consensus to finish what’s been started and then review these for the next sprint.
  • For the leadership team – Support and trust the team’s decision making, and if needed, be the shield the team needs to execute their priority decisions.
  • For everyone, all the time – Incorporate approaches in which we remind ourselves and others the need to honor the sprint commitment and the focus required to get to done!

Done feels so good for the team and enables greatness in organizations. It is a core tenet of agile methodology, and it creates a foundation in which our customers come to trust us, to believe in our words and actions, and to come back for more!

With that, what is holding you back from achieving DONE? 

Learn more about Jim Grundner here.