Which agile processes have you used in the past and which ones do you find most effective?
This is an interesting interview question because the interviewer is trying to determine how much experience you have with multiple agile frameworks and how competent you are in the adoption and deployment of these frameworks.
Processes is an interesting one because ideally, you would create your processes rather than copy and paste processes from other team environments.
If we look at scrum, for example, it is a lightweight framework that is designed to help you identify and create valuable processes that support the team and empower them to design, develop and create products/features that truly delight customers.
Processes are contextual. You must build those processes based on what the team do and what the data or evidence suggests to be the most effective way of solving the most compelling problems or creating the most valuable product.
So, I don’t believe that there is any one process or set of processes that you can impose on a scrum team. The best process is the one they create for themselves and believe – supported by data and evidence – to be the best process for their context and unique application.
Agile framework: Scrum
It should come as no surprise that scrum is one of the one or two key agile frameworks that I believe are incredibly valuable to teams to support high-performance product development.
Scrum is something I have deep experience with and in my past engagements, it has proven to be the most effective, lightweight framework that fosters creativity, collaboration, and high-performance product development.
Remember, scrum isn’t a set of predetermined steps and processes that you must follow. It is a framework that empowers the team to identify how best to solve complex problems and create the most valuable products and features for customers.
It isn’t a process in and of itself.
The premise of scrum is that the framework sets out the minimum steps required to build a great product or solve a complex problem. Work within these parameters and adopt these events, tools and methodologies, and you will have a great starting point for high-performance product development.
A scrum master or agile coach will use this framework to help the team get started and then work with the team to improve, continuously, with each sprint until they have designed and adopted practices and processes and systems that best support the team in achieving their goals and objectives.
You need to start with some kind of planning and work out what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how you are going to do it. Great, scrum makes provision for this and recommends an event called sprint planning to achieve exactly that.
Scrum doesn’t provide the details for this, it is up to the team to create a sprint planning process that best supports what they are trying to achieve. Something that best serves how the team like to plan and how they are going to solve the problem or create the solution.
Again, scrum doesn’t provide the details for this. In its most effective form, the daily scrum allows the developers to meet every morning and identify where they currently are, what they are going to address or attempt in the next 24 hours, and what impediments may prevent progress.
It is an opportunity to raise a problem before it becomes a problem and identify who is best suited to running interference on that potential impediment. It also allows the team to understand where dependencies may impact their own progress and make provision for that.
At the end of every cycle, you get to sit down with the people who care about the product you are building or the problem that you are solving and have conversations with them that inform, educate and empower them to make great decisions.
As you build something, you are looking for frequent and valuable feedback from those customers and product stakeholders to determine whether the work you are doing is valuable to them and whether you are delivering what they need, when they need it.
This isn’t about a product demonstration, although that might be a part of your review, it is instead about facilitating valuable conversations that allow customers and product stakeholders to understand what you have done, what you are attempting, and what is getting in the way of progress.
It allows them to understand where they can contribute and remove potential impediments for you, and it also allows them to help you course correct if you are drifting off track or focused on work that isn’t of value to them.
This is a team chat that explores how things are going and how they could be better.
It is an opportunity for individuals on the team to express their thoughts, concerns and ideas in a safe environment that fosters increased collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
You can invite other members into this event, but it generally isn’t recommended.
You just want a safe place for the team to voice their opinions, insights, and recommendations. A place where everyone is committed to continuous improvement and the design of practices and processes that empower high-performance.
Scrum doesn’t dictate what this looks like, it simply recommends the practice.
So, in my opinion, scrum is always my go to framework because it is very simple, lightweight and allows the team room to design, adopt, test, and implement whatever practices and processes best work for them.
I am not going to impose scrum on teams, nor will I enforce it in any way, it is instead something in the back of my mind that I will offer to the team and recommend as a great way to get started.
Scrum doesn’t impose context on the team. It is lightweight, flexible, and a scaffolding that allows the team to add the detail. It doesn’t understand the product you are trying to build, nor does it understand the problem you are trying to solve, it simply provides a framework that allows you to do what is most valuable for the team and the customer.
Agile Framework: Kanban
My next recommendation is good old-fashioned Kanban. The simple yet powerful way of making work and process visible.
A visual tool that allows the team to see the flow of work and understand where bottlenecks and impediments are arising, why they exist, and what impact that is having on the team’s ability to create valuable products frequently and consistently.
In a team environment that is super responsive, Kanban is incredibly valuable because it allows you to address and deliver work even faster than scrum does.
In my experience, great agile teams like to use a combination of scrum and Kanban.
They may drop sprint planning in favour of a Kanban that showcases all the backlog items that need doing. They may decide that a daily scrum isn’t necessary but design their own style of daily meeting that empowers them to discuss what they are doing, what they are focusing on next, and what might prevent them from delivering the outcomes or features that they are working on.
They may still do sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives to ensure that they are doing the most valuable work and improving as a team, but they may skip other elements of scrum and focus primarily on Kanban.
Great. If they are evolving from scrum and into a fluid style of working that best supports their goals and objectives, that is a perfect demonstration of agility and should be embraced.
Visual representation of workflow and bottlenecks
Kanban allows the team to continuously focus on the most valuable backlog items and reprioritize in response to customer and product stakeholder feedback.
The visual nature of the Kanban empowers the team to have quick and productive discussions around a backlog item and use that opportunity to understand how best to solve the problem or how best to create the most valuable product/feature.
It also allows them to quickly and easily see how work is flowing through the organization and track their progress in real time. No spreadsheets, project management software or gimmicky goodies necessary. It’s just there, and each member of the team can move cards in accordance with what best represents the progress that has been made or the impediment that has blocked progress.
It removes downtime and people sitting around waiting for things to happen. It empowers them to get on with work and consistently deliver value.
For me, these are the two most important and valuable frameworks available to us today.
There will be better frameworks in the future and more creative, collaborative, and effective ways of working and great, when they arrive, we can embrace and adopt those new frameworks, but for now, I would consider Scrum and Kanban as the most effective.
The only other consideration you would need to make as a scrum master or agile coach is what agile frameworks best suit the transition to working at scale.
When you have multiple teams working on multiple products and need to collaborate and create at scale. There are great frameworks, such as LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) that are focused exclusively on working at scale, and it is worth exploring those context specific frameworks.
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