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How Individuals Can Adopt an Agile Way of Working

by Ben Linders on Aug 01, 2013 |

Organization mostly do an agile transformation for a whole team, project, or organizational unit, given that agile is a team driven approach. But there are also professionals who start using agile practices individually, or who are working agile as a one person team. How can individuals adopt agile, and what kind of benefits can it give them? 

Fiona Hanington wrote a blog post can I be an agile technical communicator when my team is not, in which she discusses the possibilities to individually adopt agile. She start by explaining how she was inspired by the agile training, and while it’s unclear when her unit will adopt agile, she want to start with agile and change her way of working:

Do I need to wait for the rest of my team to go Agile before I can? Or are there aspects of the Agile methodology that I can incorporate into my work now, as an individual?

Since her unit is not yet making the transition to agile, there are some limitations that she is aware of:

In my unit, we currently work in a traditional “waterfall” environment: first requirements, then design, then execution, then testing, then bug fixing, then beta release, then more bug fixing, then a commercial release. I absolutely must adhere to this structure. I have certain deliverables due at the various stages along the way, and — likewise — I rely on planning documents and other artifacts from other groups. I can’t ignore this structure even if I want to. For the most part, then, I must wait for my unit to become Agile before I can truly be an Agile technical communicator myself.

Fiona explores several practices that she can do become agile on her own. She explains how you can focus on the customer needs in your daily work, by questioning requirements that come in.  And she discusses the possibilities to use agile planning techniques like dividing the work into small tasks, use a personal task board to make the work that she does visible, focus planning on the short term and respond to changes, and use timeboxing, Kanban and priority setting for the tasks that she will do. Her conclusion is that individually adopting an agile way of working is possible:

While I look forward to eventually being part of a full-fledged cross-functional Agile team, I don’t have to wait to get started. Even in my traditional waterfall environment, I have started to bring some of the principles of Agile into my day-to-day working life. Ironically perhaps, the steps I have taken so far have made me feel more a part of the team than I did before, even though I am borrowing from a different model.

In the blog post make your agile transformation personal, Len Lagestee discusses what it can mean for an individual to become agile.

Your personal journey through an organizational transformation or immersion into an Agile environment will be a unique experience for you. You may have had experience with Agile or none at all. Change may come very naturally for you or it may create some degree of anxiety.

Len explores the personal journey of agile adoption, which starts with becoming aware what agile is and experimenting with agile practices, His makes clear that individuals have to adopt agile at their own pace:

Don’t let anyone tell you where you should be on the journey or how you should be feeling. Find which cycle you are now in and determine what you need to do to get to the next level.

Can a lone developer use agile? Phil Johnson asks this question

However, there are those developers out there who, either by desire or circumstance, work alone, as one man or woman development teams. Are they ruled out from using Agile methods to manage their own development work, or can Agile be adopted by the lone developer?

Phil explains why he thinks that an individual can use agile, and benefit from using it. He made a list of agile practices, which includes things like:

  • Create clearly defined, small chunks of work (i.e., user stores)
  • Hold daily “standups” before starting work each day
  • Keep track of how long it takes you to do tasks and how many tasks get completed in a sprint
  • Communicate frequently with the client, to provide regular updates and product releases and solicit feedback and input

Have you started using agile practices individually before your team started, or are you working agile as a one person team? Did you get benefits from adopting agile individually? 

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