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Which Agile Milestone Are We at Now?

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👋Introduction

Hello! I am Sasaki, a Project Manager in the Project Promotion Group at KINTO Technologies.
In my career to date, I have worked as a programmer, designed as a Project Lead, trained members, and handled tasks akin to those of a Project Manager (defining requirements, managing stakeholders, etc.).

In my previous job, I worked on Agile with the whole team for about three years and went through a real Kaizen (improvement) journey.
As I am passionate about this topic, I really wanted to write an article about Agile development today!

🚗Toyota and Agile

How are you incorporating Agile development methodology into your team?
There are various forms of Agile development, such as Scrum for new services and Kanban for operation and maintenance. However, when learning Agile development, many of you may have encountered Lean Development and the Toyota Production System, which is said to be the origin of Agile development[^1].

In this article, I will visualize the approaches to Agile of KINTO Technologies, a Toyota group company.
I also hope to help those who are working on Agile in the company gain new insights through visualization.

[^1]: Agile books citing Toyota

Method

  1. Quantitative visualization of each team's level of Scrum with the Scrum Checklist
  2. Discussion while reviewing the results of Step 1
  3. Casually sharing teams future plans

First, use the Scrum Checklist to visualize how much of each Scrum indicator have you accomplished so far.

Sample: Results of Scrum Checklist

Once visualized, let discussions begin. Use the 4L Reflection Framework for discussion.

https://www.ryuzee.com/contents/blog/14561

Notes on the use of Scrum Checklist

The provided Scrum Checklist has a note.

Do not use it to compare with other teams for evaluation.

It is not intended to compete with other teams. Instead, we use it as an opportunity for discussion to place different Agile teams in a similar context.
If you use it in a similar way to this article, please avoid using it as a way to judge or evaluate people or teams, and use it among members in a constructive and mature manner.

🎉Participating Members

We asked for cooperation from Scrum Masters -or people in similar positions- who manage Scrum or Agile-like teams in their organization, and 10 teams (10 people from different teams) came!
Thank you all for your time and cooperation!
Remote meeting on the day

How we did it

✅ Scrum Checklist

We made various charts.
The results varied widely depending on the team's situation, such as some people saying "Although what we do is close to Waterfall, I am running a Scrum event", or others expressing "I felt that there were some issues, but the score came out higher than expected."

Some teams had indicators with low scores but no major current issues, such as "We do not have a Scrum Master, but we are rotating Scrum events among developers," or "We do not have a product backlog, but we have a good relationship with the owner."

Since each of the participants had different areas of expertise, we were able to encourage mutual learning by having participants teach each other about indicators that some were less familiar. Many teams in Group A had organized backlogs, while many teams in Group B were experiencing challenges with their backlogs. Maybe we can exchange knowledge on organizing backlogs...👀
Scrum Checklist results for each team

📒Reflection (4L Reflection)

We split into two groups and reflected.
In my previous career, I tried hard to get people to speak up, but at KINTO Technologies, the board filled up in 5 to 8 minutes, giving the impression that they were active in sharing their opinions.
The red sticky notes are their impressions after seeing other people's notes.

Group A Results

Group B Results

This time, we used the WhiteBoard, a new addition to Confluence recommended by Kin-chan.
Sticky notes can be converted directly into JIRA tickets, which can be used to organize action items.

🚩Results of the Reflection

Here is some of the feedback among the many voices.
Many people expressed a desire to strengthen relationships with product owners (POs) to optimize the use of their services and get faster. I got the impression that many teams were highly self-organized.

Liked

  • Visualization helped us understand the team's strengths and weaknesses
  • We were able to understand the areas where we diverged from the ideal Scrum
  • That developers are able to work responsibly and autonomously (self-organized)

Lacked

  • Product Owners are not present or not included in many Scrum events
  • Story Point (SP) setting and estimation are not done well
  • Due to the increase in team members, some feel the need to split up the team.

Learned

  • I was able to learn about different Agile initiatives and products in our company
  • Sprint periods can be set shorter or longer depending on each team's situation

Longed for (excerpt)

Although not action items, they were able to set themselves informal goals to keep growing.

  • To revise the length of their Sprints
  • To split teams into smaller ones
  • To improve communication with POs

💭Thoughts

I was really surprised that people from different departments and offices, some of whom I had never met before, participated when I called them to gather for this session, even though it was my second month in the company. I would like to thank everyone again for their cooperation.
By bringing together the people who practice Agile in the company, I made the following discoveries and learned the following lessons as a facilitator.

  • Scrum checklists can be used to quantitatively visualize a team's level of Scrum
  • Listening to other teams at different stages of their Scrum journey can provide an opportunity for improvement and courage in our activities
  • Connecting Scrum Masters from different teams created an opportunity to find like-minded individuals to ask for advice on various issues.
  • We were able to find issues that were common across teams (such as the need to improve communication with POs and to split teams)

I did not participate actively as much as I was focused on facilitation, but when I heard a participant say, "I was on the brink of giving up, but learning about everyone's activities encouraged me," I was almost moved to tears.

In the face of Agile challenges in my career, I augmented my solutions and empathy by engaging in external study groups and reading relevant books. I think it's always great to be able to share these challenges within the company and have someone to discuss issues with.

🏔Summary: Which Agile Milestone Are We at Now?

At KINTO Technologies, our development approach adapts to the nature of the project. For large-scale projects, Waterfall is more common, and we use Agile for other project types. This time, we tried to visualize the level of Agile within the company from the perspective of Scrum, and found that each team has various ways of approaching Agile and their issues.

So... which Agile milestone are we at now? To this question, we found no clear answer! (Sorry!)
However, I feel that by gathering with other Scrum Masters, we went further down the Agile path together!

✨ What I Want to Do in the Future

I am in a cross-sectional team called the Project Promotion Group.
I know this is a bit presumptuous since I just joined the company, but I hope to use this as an opportunity to help promote cross-team development through initiatives such as Scrum of Scrums and reflection of reflections (meetings where team improvements are shared with other Scrum Masters).

Agile Samurai ends with the words, "It doesn't matter if it is Agile or not!"
I would like to continue to kaizen as much as I can and continue climbing Mount Agile together with all of you.

Be Agile! Thank you for reading this article.

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