As an Agile Champion, I have often found myself trying to spread the word about Agile and attempting to convince others that Agile ways of working are preferred. However, I have come to realize that simply throwing around Agile terms and buzzwords may not always be effective in helping me make my case. The keys to successfully promoting Agile are to understand your audience, speak their language, and suggest small incremental changes when you begin.
Understand your Audience
An important aspect of effectively promoting Agile is to understand what is important to your audience, and what they are thinking about as being important to their business or organization. Understanding your audience means taking the time to learn about who they are, what their roles are, and what their priorities are. This can help you tailor your message and show them how Agile can help to address their specific challenges and needs. For example, if you're speaking to a team of developers, they may be more interested in how Agile can improve their efficiency and productivity. On the other hand, when speaking to a manager you may notice that they're more interested in how Agile can help to improve the bottom line and increase ROI. By understanding what is important to your audience, you can tailor your message to better resonate with them.
Answering these five questions is an effective way to help you tailor your message to better resonate with your audience, and allows you to make a stronger case for Agile ways of working.
Who is the audience? Understanding the demographics and roles of your audience can help you to understand their needs, challenges, and priorities. As previously mentioned, a group of developers will probably be more interested in how Agile can improve their efficiency and productivity, while a group of managers may be more interested in how Agile can help to improve the bottom line and increase ROI.
What words resonate with them most? Knowing the words and terminology that your audience is familiar with and what resonates the most with them can help you to communicate effectively. For example, if your audience is familiar with the term "Agile" and understands its meaning, you can use it freely in your presentation. On the other hand, if your audience is not familiar with the term, you can use different words or metaphors to explain Agile and its surrounding concepts.
What are their goals? Understanding the goals and objectives of your audience can help you to align your message with their priorities. For example, if your audience has a goal to improve customer satisfaction, you can explain how Agile can help by focusing on customer collaboration and responding to change.
- What are some real-world examples you can leverage? Using real-world examples and analogies can help your audience understand complex concepts and ideas. This can make your message more relatable and easier to understand, especially when using examples from your own organization as a proof-of-concept, or evidence that Agile can work.
- What do they already know about Agile? By asking about their prior knowledge, you can gauge their understanding and tailor your message accordingly. This can establish a common ground and help you build on their existing knowledge, while simultaneously including the information most important to them.
By understanding your audience, using relatable language, and aligning your message with their priorities, you can make a stronger case for Agile ways of working and increase the chances of it being adopted in your organization.
Speak Their Language
One of the biggest challenges in promoting Agile is that it often comes with a whole new set of terms and jargon that can be confusing and overwhelming for those who are not familiar with it. For example, when talking about Scrum, a commonly used Agile framework, the terms "Scrum Master," "Product Owner," and "Sprint" may be used. These terms may be familiar to those who are well-versed in Agile, but they may not mean much to others, or might be misunderstood.
To effectively communicate the benefits of Agile to those who are not familiar with the jargon, it's important to use language that is more relatable to them. For example, instead of using the term "Scrum Master," you could explain that this is the person who facilitates the team's meetings and ensures that the process is running smoothly. Similarly, instead of using the term "Product Owner," you could explain that this is the person who represents the customer's interests and ensures that the team is working on the most important tasks. And instead of using the term "Sprint," you could explain that this is a short, time-boxed period during which the team works to deliver a specific set of tasks. Here are common business terms you can use in place of agile jargon:
- Continuous Learning and Improvement in place of Retrospective
- Iteration in place of sprint or quarterly planning
- Inspect & Adapt in place of Retrospective
- Real-time status in place of burndown chart
- Capacity Planning instead of Velocity
- Customer Centric instead of Product Owner
- Early and Often Feedback instead of Sprint Review or User Acceptance Testing
- Quarterly Business Review instead of Portfolio Kanban
- Weighted Prioritization instead of Weighted Shortest Job First or Cost of Delay
- Value Delivery instead of Product Increment
- Uncertainty and complexity instead of Story Points
By using language and terms that they are familiar with, you can improve communication and make it easier for them to understand the concepts and benefits of Agile. It also shows that you have taken the time to understand their perspective and speak their language. This helps build trust and credibility with your audience, which can increase the chances of your message being heard and acted upon.
Suggest Small Incremental Changes
Understanding the organizational appetite for change is an important consideration. I've worked with some clients who are all-in and ready to turn everything upside down from the start, but most organizations I've worked with prefer to start small. This may be because there is already change fatigue in the organization, a previously failed attempt to incorporate more agile ways of being, or hesitancy to fully commit. Suggesting small incremental changes when beginning the adoption process can help to ease the transition and build momentum. By starting small, you can help your audience to slowly adopt Agile ways of working and move towards a more Agile culture. This approach can help to reduce resistance and make the transition easier. Here are five small changes that you can recommend to your audience to move them towards Agile adoption:
Introduce a 15 minute daily team huddle: One of the most key and most common practices of Agile is regular communication and collaboration among team members. Introducing a daily stand-up meeting, also known as a Scrum meeting, can help to improve communication and alignment among team members.
Prioritize customer feedback: Encourage your team to gather and incorporate customer feedback into their work. This helps to ensure that the team is delivering value that aligns with the needs of the customer, and can improve customer satisfaction by showing that feedback is heard and acted on.
Experiment with an iterative approach: Encourage the team to try a more iterative approach to their work. This can be done by breaking down larger projects into smaller chunks and delivering working software in short sprints. Approaching tasks this way allows teams to respond to changes and new ideas quickly, and can help to improve customer satisfaction by incorporating feedback more routinely.
Encourage continuous learning and improvement: Encourage team members to reflect on their work and identify opportunities for improvement. This can be done through regular retrospectives or other continuous improvement practices.
Emphasize customer value: Emphasize the importance of thinking about customer value, and how the work they are doing aligns with the needs of the customer. This can help to ensure that goals are relevant and meaningful, and that they align with the needs of the customers or stakeholders.
In summary, by speaking the language of your audience, understanding their needs and priorities, and suggesting small incremental changes, you can increase the chances of successfully promoting Agile and getting it adopted in your organization. What else do you find useful to move the needle?
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