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Agile Marketing: Sprint Two

Our second sprint was a mixed bag of challenges and successes.

We faced our first major obstacle: how to account for holidays. 

Going into the end of the year holidays, the group decided to try our hand at a two-week sprint. We typically function in one-week iterations, or sprints as they are called in Agile, but with half our team out the week of 12/22/2014, it made sense to try and plan up front. The idea was to estimate and set all of our tasks for the week of 12/15/2014 and 12/22/2014, so that it would be easier for team members to walk in the door on the second week and be off to the races. This made sense considering Christmas falls on a Thursday, so our office would only be open for two days that week.

This is all very logical on the surface and we were marginally successful. However, what we didn’t account for was that we were attempting to make changes to our processes with a large portion of our team out…not the best way to implement change.

Retrospective lessons learned are adding value

But while we faced challenges, we were also improving as a team. One thing we are already starting to see is that our weekly retrospectives are already adding value. By sharing what we liked, didn’t like, what we need and what we’d like to see changed each week, we are adapting to this Agile marketing transition a lot faster than I would have thought.

For instance, our sprint one retrospective brought to light that we needed a review column and a few other changes to our task board. I personally had created the task board we used for sprint one, and as is typical for me, I cut a few corners on things that I thought were unnecessary to try and keep change to a minimum. Having all sat through the same training with a more traditional task board than the one I made, it was clear in the retrospective that there were value in a few of the things I cut. With just a few lines drawn on the whiteboard, we implemented those changes in sprint two and are before it. It was great to see how easy change could be, and more importantly, how open the team was to it. Since the retrospective is done as a group, all team members openly discussed the changes before they went into effect thus giving them more ownership of them. Instead of dragging their feet, people embraced the changes.

Agile MarketingAgile marketing helps empower your team

The other really great thing from this sprint was how it empowered team members. With folks being out, other team members stepped up to facilitate the daily stand-up meetings. The group that was in the office self-organized and got to work. They looked at where items stood and used the business priorities that we have set as a group to take on our project backlog.

While we have always done this well as a team, it was exciting to see that we now had a process that helped to breed this mentality. It is no longer just an intangible thing that just kind of happens, but is instead a repeatable way of functioning as a team.

Hyper-productivity continues

According to our task board, 497 points worth of tasks were completed. A point in this case, comes from the relative estimating process in Agile, called Planning Poker. To give you an idea, a one-point task from this first sprint was to update pricing on one of our course pages (which equates to a code update on 4 total web pages). Being relative, the value of one point is relative among team members and could be different for different teams. The real value of these points comes in using the points as a way to estimate what can be done for a team in any one sprint.

So for now, until we have more data to go by, we can now say that in a given sprint, our team can complete 497 points of work. What’s great about this system is it automatically takes into account weekly meetings, lunch, bathroom breaks, general social time, etc. because it is not looking at things at a micro level of hour or day. It looks at the team as a whole for the entire sprint.

I continue to be excited by our transition to Agile marketing, and with 2015 only days away, I’m looking forward to the new year.

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