I want my team to be more committed, and to start thinking for themselves. I want them to be both more self-organising, and to deliver on our business goals. This will certainly reduce the burden on me and has to be better for them, and the business. That’s what agile software development is all about. But ours isn’t an agile team—hey, we don’t even do software.
Here are three simple agile practices that help empower any team and can be used in any business initiative to help deliver outcomes and reduce risk.
1. Flag the Pineapple
Say what? A pineapple is a task, issue or requirement that may not be urgent, but has the potential to be very problematic. A pineapple is called a pineapple because “you don’t want to sit on it for too long”. A pineapple flag indicates that the team should keep an eye on this one and perhaps take an opportunity while doing higher priority work to give it some focus.
If you’re displaying your tasks on a card wall, or in a spreadsheet, a few little pineapple flags can draw the eye to these ticking bombs. Anyone in the team, in the course of their work may respond to a pineapple with an idea for a solution, or with a greater understanding of its urgency.
Even without a card wall, or spreadsheet, the pineapple is a useful concept. There are always many worries from the outset of a project, but if we tried to give them all immediate focus we’d never get started on the productive work.
With a pineapple flag, we can breathe out a little bit, knowing that it’s not forgotten and that it’s visible to everyone in the team. Many times, pineapples just disappear as we discover (from getting the other work done) that a task is not so highly valued, or that there is a better approach. In these cases, we thank goodness that we didn’t waste time ‘fixing’ it prematurely.
2. Zombie Corner
Zombie Corner tells the team that some days it’s okay to have a tired brain. Everyone gets tired mentally or physically sometimes. And, in breaking news, it’s not always the result of exertion at work. But it happens. We have families, illnesses, relationships, even the occasional big celebration—all perfectly normal and acceptable. However, at these times doing super high-value rocket science work may be both painful, and risky.
The Zombie Corner draws attention to the menial or repetitive tasks that need doing on every project. It’s great to identify these tasks and when you or anyone in the team is feeling flat, or even chilling out after a meeting a challenge, there’s always Zombie Corner for a bit of occupational therapy.
This stuff needs doing, but not at the expense of your best thinking. Zombie Corner increases team utilisation, health and sustainability. And the team will love it.
Sometimes, to get started the team suggests (or demands) a formal process for everything, or a ‘Gap Analysis’, or a ‘Business Change Impact Assessment’. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re applying a big tool to a small job. It’s natural to want to overcook a task that is new or big, or that we’re a little anxious about.
But often when we face a challenge, all that’s needed is a chat, or 10 minutes at a whiteboard. A few bullets may serve us better than a 60-page document.
Here’s the principle: If it needs doing, then let’s do it! But always ask, “is it worth it, do we really need it? Can we put this off?” The answer most often is, YAGNI—You Ain’t Gonna Need It! Let’s make sure we’re always focused on the important stuff.
P.S. We could’ve made this description much better, and we could’ve thought up hundreds more witty insights but… YAGNI.