Sunday, 3 January 2016

An Agile Start to the New Year 2016!

This classic Auspicious Agile blog post, (with a few updates) appears below. I hope it helps you to have a great Agile start to the New Year!
Hello and Happy New Year!  In looking forward to the New Year, setting goals, and making resolutions here are some thoughts to keep you Agile, flexible, and successful:
1.  Flexibility in your goals
As you set your goals for the New Year, start by building in some flexibility in your goal setting. Let's look at a few examples, some personal and some professional.  
For example:  You may want to re-start or continue your education.  At the same time you may want to start a new relationship, or get more serious about an existing relationship.  A few months into the year you may realise that the time required for achieving additional / higher education and also being involved in a relationship are more time than you have available in your discretionary time.
Being flexible you may choose to try another educational approach, like on-line learning or micro-learning so you can continue your education where you are or while you are at home.  This may give you more time for your relationship(s).  Or you may decide to put plans for a more serious relationship on hold until you complete your continuing education goals.  The point being that building in flexibility to your plans can help you to better achieve your goals and if necessary re-prioritize them (see personal backlog below).
Another example:  Let’s look at a professional case where you may be considering expanding your business into a new market.  While it makes sense to set some milestones this year to achieve market entry, it also makes sense to leave room to be flexible in your market entry approach.
It may make sense to set up a new business entity in the market, but it may also make more sense to work with local partners already in the market.  Leaving yourself some flexibility in achieving your milestones and goals for this year increases your likelihood of achieving your goals and resolutions.
2.  Adapting and adjusting your personal backlog
Just like the way we set up a Scrum Product Backlog or in a SAFe scaling context a Program Backlog in planning to meet your New Year’s goals and resolutions create a personal backlog. This builds on the first point as it helps you to visualise your goals and prioritise them.  Having a personal backlog in place also allows you to prioritise your goals and make trade-offs if you aren’t able to achieve everything according to your initial plan (and of course plans do change).
For example maybe you want to gain a new professional certification, start exercising again, and travel more to a new region.  Two month’s into the new year you may realise that you won’t be able to maintain your exercise routine and increase your travel to the new region.  In that case you may need to update your backlog to incorporate a new type of exercise that you haven’t done in the past.  Or you may need to look at the priorities in your personal backlog and decide whether travel to the new region is as important to you as being able to continue your exercise program.  Having a personal backlog enables you to be flexible.
3.  Limit your WIP
Limiting Work in Process (WIP) is a Lean principle that we see in Agile in the form of the sprint backlog (which limits the work in process every 2 – 4 week time box / sprint).  Limiting your personal WIP this New Year will help you to focus on what is really important. Do you have new family commitments, broader responsibilities in the work place, and want to continue your education. These are all great resolutions and goals, but trying to do everything at the same time makes it unlikely you will do anything very well.
So you may choose to focus on those new family commitments during the first month or first quarter (we can think of this as a sprint goal or in SAFe a Program Increment Objective).  During the second month or second quarter you may increase your focus on executing on those new workplace responsibilities (of course you will have probably done some initial planning during the first month or quarter).  Finally you may tackle that goal of continuing your education by enrolling in a Masters Program in the second half of the year.
By limiting WIP you are able to focus on a limited set of things (stories) in your backlog.  By doing this you can benefit from reduced task switching and achieve some early wins in key personal areas that will help to encourage you to continue in other areas.  Limiting WIP is a key approach to help you to achieve your goals and resolutions in the New Year!
4. Use a Kanban Board
A Kanban board is something that allows you to visualise your tasks and activities. There is an example below, but you can name the columns whatever you like.
For example when I moved from the US to Asia, I used a Kanban board to coordinate all of the activities. The columns were Ready/Blocked/In-Progress/Done. Using this method I could visualise all of the activities I needed to do like packing and shipping, finding housing, and updating mailing information. Using the Kanban board allowed me to effectively manage a complex move, and I actually still use one to track my day-to-day activities.

In Summary
Applying a few Agile principles to your planning for the New Year can help you to be more successful in achieving your goals.  Namely, by maintaining flexibility in your goals, creating and adapting your personal backlog, limiting WIP, and using a personal Kanban board, you will be well on your way to a successful and Happy New Year.
Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2016, and Stay Agile!
The Original blog posts can be found here: