New challenges: training and vendors
With a new year came new challenges. Sprint 4 ran from 1/5/2015 to 1/12/2015, and to kickoff the new year our company held a one-day training course for our entire company. Half our company attended training in the morning on Tuesday and Wednesday. The other half attended in the afternoons. This meant our team was cut in half those two days and none of the morning folks could attend our daily stand-ups.
To work around this, we simply had a stand-up of sorts in the morning for the afternoon group and a second one at lunch for the morning group. It worked fairly well. We adapted to the situation and made it work. It created some disconnect between the groups, which slowed productivity and collaboration some, but all-in-all was successful.
The bigger challenge was a lot of tasks got held-up in the Blocked column because of a couple vendors. The direct mail side of our tasks has a very linear process due to the nature of how it works. You can segment your audience and create your pieces, but they can’t go into the USPS mail stream until names are output and pieces are printed. Our group juggles all of these pieces of the puzzle and the vendors responsible for them to make sure they all come together at the printer. But, they can’t control what happens at the list vendor level, nor can they control the printer’s press schedule.
They did what they could and managed their work accordingly, but a lot of tasks were stuck in Blocked.
The key to our Sprint 4 was remaining Agile and flexible
Having all of those tasks blocked meant that if our vendors did not get their part done, we did not have enough work in the sprint. This meant we had to do a no-no in Agile and that was add more tasks to our sprint throughout the week. The downside was, if our vendors did get their part done, we would now have committed to more work than was possible because we had gone above our team velocity by adding these new points. Unfortunately, there was no other choice.
But that’s exactly what is nice about Agile. It is flexible. We talked as a group. We reiterated business priorities so everyone was on the same page and understood that the blocked items were of highest priority if they were cleared. We all also agreed on what was low priority and understood at the end of the sprint not everything was going to be done.
We took each day as a came. We adjusted work and our tasks as things developed. We remained Agile, instead of falling back into our old habits.
Productivity benefited and 736 points of work were completed as a team
By adjusting to our changing requirements and the uncontrollable world around us, we were able to keep productivity high. People weren’t sitting around waiting on things that might not come. Time wasn’t wasted with having to keep revisiting business needs or what was the next highest priority.
We worked collectively as a group and attacked the tasks at hand that could be completed. Even with the training and vendor disruptions our productivity remained high. Having an extra hand from our guest intern definitely helped as well (we are sad her last day was Friday). But again, her contribution these two weeks is not only noticeable, but also quantifiable.
We continue to further evolve our mindset to one that puts the group first, not the individual, and the expectations we set with stakeholders continues to improve.