- After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:
- Explain Agile communication management
- Describe ways of accomplishing customer feedback
- Identify Best Practices for Agile Modeling
- Identify the key elements of active listening
- Describe Agile facilitation techniques
- Describe Participatory Decision making
- Explain negotiations and conflict management
Every project manager learns that the most valuable factor for project success is communication. The richness and effectiveness of the communication channels must be considered while deciding the channel to use in Agile projects. Agile always recommends face-to-face communication, as it promotes trust and two-way communication.
The image illustrates the richness of communication against communication effectiveness. The dotted lines represent one-way communication, that is, information flows from documentation options like paper-based documents, audiotape, or videotape to the intended participants. Though the curve gradually rises up, it is still not an effective way of communication.
The full line at the top of the chart represents a two-way communication through the modeling options such as emails, phone conversation, video conversation, face-to-face conversation, and face-to-face at a whiteboard. Notice that the effectiveness and richness increase steeply here.
Agile recognizes the need for effective communication and provides a variety of tools and checkpoints as an enabler. This helps organizations to avoid typical project mistakes of having mismatched objectives and expectations. Some of the sessions aimed at continuous participation and effective collaboration of stakeholders are daily stand-up meetings, frequent demonstrations in Agile software development, retrospectives, a business involved in requirements gathering, planning sessions, and group-based estimation.
As the project progresses, stakeholders involved in the project may change due to multiple reasons. Hence, it is important to constantly revamp the stakeholder list to ensure they are current and valid. Also, relevant stakeholders must be engaged in the decision-making process.
Social Media Communication
The term ‘Social Media’ refers to the computerized tools, which allows people within the organization to share knowledge, ideas, discuss, and collaborate. Organizations use such tools to enable information flow within the organization, they can also be extended to people outside the organization to capture their views and feedback.
Some of the benefits of social media based communications are as follows:
Communication across globally distributed environment is enhanced.
Sensitive information can be quickly communicated to the employees, through restricted access, while encouraging feedback.
Before spending much time, effort, and money on building the actual product, organizations can choose to showcase models and prototypes through social media, thereby inviting feedback from customers.
Capture customer feedback through polling, where customers can express their views by voting their opinion about the product. This acts as a key input to formulate the product roadmap.
Information radiators are used to proactively manage the stakeholder expectation and provide transparency regarding the work being performed. They provide a view of the team’s daily progress, work quality, impediments, and risks. Effective information radiators should be simple, unambiguous, current, transient, influential, highly visible, and minimal in number.
Information Radiators (contd.)
Some of the information radiators that are used in Agile projects are:
- Burnup charts
- Burndown charts
- Kanban or Task Boards
- Impediment Logs
These information radiators improve project communication to a greater extent.
Burnup charts indicate the amount of work completed according to the project scope. Burnup chart has two lines, a total work line and a work completed line. The project is said to be complete when the work completed line reaches the total work line. The chart gradually develops, showcasing the increasing amount of work completed by the team. This chart is also called ‘Feature Complete Graph’ in the Feature-Driven-Development (FDD) methodology.
As shown in the image, the release involves a total of 100 points of work in the beginning. The point at the end of an iteration indicates how much work is completed. Therefore, at the end of Iteration 5, about 57 points of work is completed. Also notice that during Iteration 6, about 20 points of work gets added to the release, which lifts the total work plot to reflect the new total amount of work. The chart shows the increase in scope, around Iteration 5. By separating progress and scope, burnup charts provide a clear view of the scope variance.
Burndown charts provide visibility on the amount of work remaining within an iteration or release. These charts can be used to track Actual Velocity against the Expected Velocity and evaluate the project performance.
As shown in the image, the horizontal axis of Project A shows the iteration and vertical axis shows the amount of work remaining at the beginning of each iteration. The light blue line indicates the ideal tasks remaining at the end of each day. The orange line indicates the actual tasks remaining at the end of each day. The Burndown chart shows if the project is ahead or behind schedule. It helps to make informed decisions on the factors that can be negotiated.
The burnup and burndown charts are used to forecast the likely velocity with which the project deliverable will be developed in the upcoming sprints or releases, thereby enabling effective planning. A variant of Burndown chart is the Burndown Bar Chart. In addition to identifying the rate at which work is completed, the burndown bar chart helps in visualizing the work that gets added or removed from the scope for a particular release or iteration.
The image shows a project that initially had planned for a certain amount of story points. Tasks were added to the release at the beginning of Iteration 4. To indicate the work that got added to the release, the bottom of the bar is lowered. To indicate the work that the team managed to complete during the iteration, the top of the bar is lowered. The length of the bar indicates the overall work remaining in the project. Similarly, when work gets removed from a release, the bottom of the bar gets lifted to the extent of the work removed.
Visible charts are part of the information radiator family and are referenced as part of the Extreme Programming (XP). The term ‘Visible Charts’ was originally used by the Extreme Programming or XP methodology. They are intended to be large and highly visible charts on project progress. They provide information easily to the team and others.
Visible Charts are relatively casual; often they are hand-drawn and big. One of the values of XP is communication, and Visible Charts are the preferred way to showcase trends, history, or important information like risks, project vision, defects, or team processes. Visible charts work when people stop to read the charts; team members do not complain about updating the chart, and they reflect the reality of the project.
Many organizations use models to capture requirements and manage expectations and achievability of the project goals. Agile Modeling refers to the workflow of a process or a product that the team can review before implementing it in the solution. Models can be temporary, spontaneous, or a prototype on which solutions will be built.
It helps in improving communication between the stakeholders. It also helps the organization minimize cost by investing minimal time, effort, and money to build the models. Further, Agile Modeling enhances better collaboration with the stakeholders and the expectations are managed, prior to developing the actual product.
Agile Modeling contd
The model needs to be Just Barely Good Enough (JBGE), where it could be just a picture drawn on a board, paper models, screen designs, or flowcharts. The focus of these models is not on perfection, but to provide a starting point from which the overall solution will evolve.
The given image showcases the steps involved in the product development lifecycle. The team builds models of the solution and gets quick feedback from the business users before spending any effort on building the final solution. This ensures the team is building the solution on a firm foundation. It is recommended to spend some time to go through the image for a better understanding.
Best Practices of Agile Modeling
The given image illustrates some of the best practices of Agile Modeling. One of the myths about Agile methodologies is that it does not give “enough time” for modeling and design. The Agile modeling principles emphasize “continuous attention to good design and technical excellence”. It is recommended to spend some time to go through the best practices listed on the image.
Agile Facilitation Methods
Facilitation refers to enabling a discussion to arrive at a decision. The process of Agile facilitation involves a set of team interviews to clarify expectations and perhaps an analysis of the collaboration patterns in Agile.
Some of the techniques for facilitating ideas and enabling team inputs are as follows:
- Visioning Product Box – Teams create a product box similar to the one on a store shelf. This encourages the team to identify the most important features of the product.
- Spider Web – A context diagramming exercise where everyone draws pictures and lines to represent relationships of a product with other products and services.
- Requirements Buy a feature – This game helps the team in prioritizing features. Each player has a budget that they can use to prioritize the features they think are most valuable.
- White Elephant Sizing – An estimation technique used for relative sizing and categorization of user stories. Once the user stories are distributed, the team can move the stories to different categories with a reason.
- Retrospectives Sailboat – A game used to identify the retrospective experiences as positive or negative. A sailboat is drawn on a whiteboard. The team places post-it notes with their retrospective experiences, showing either anchors that slow the boat down or gusts of wind that move it forward.
- Learning Matrix – Captures what went well and what did not ideas that can be implemented, and individuals who performed well.
Agile Negotiation takes place when two or more entities in conflict rely on a process to discover a mutually acceptable resolution to the conflict. It is a part of project management. The aim of any negotiation should be to arrive at a resolution or decision that is considered fair and respectable to all the parties concerned. There are several principles, tools, techniques, and guidelines about how to carry out a successful negotiation.
Here are some of the points you need to keep in mind during negotiation:
- Separate people from the problem: Very often, prejudices about people involved in the negotiation prevent consideration of certain alternatives. Therefore, it is essential to focus on the problem and not on the people.
- Focus on the interests and not on positions: The interest you are trying to protect or enhance during the negotiation process must be clear. The focus must not be on the positions of the people involved.
- Invent options for mutual gain: The most successful negotiation is where both parties feel they have won. Therefore, one has to constantly try to think of options where there is a benefit to both the parties.
- Use objective criteria: If a point is proven objectively, it becomes easier to agree with it.
Let us summarize the topics covered in this tutorial:
Agile recognizes the need for communication and provides a variety of tools and checkpoints.
The burnup chart indicates the amount of work completed during a release or iteration. Burndown chart tracks the amount of work remaining.
Burndown bar chart also helps visualize the work that gets added or removed from the scope for a particular release or iteration.
Agile Modeling refers to the workflow of a product or a process, which the team can review before implementing it in the solution.
Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.
Agile facilitation is important for visioning, requirements solicitation, and retrospectives.
Participatory decision-making refers to involving the team in making the decisions. It provides the project community with specific practices to frame, analyze, and make the various decisions that arise during a project.
There are five levels of conflicts:
Level 1: Problem to Solve
Level 2: Disagreement
Level 3: Contest
Level 4: Crusade
Level 5: War
Understanding these levels of conflicts and positively managing these conflicts are important skills of Agile leaders.