Engagement and feedback are interrelated like the bricks in the aqueduct.

Engagement and feedback are interrelated like the bricks in the aqueduct.

In Senior Management and the Success of Agile Implementation, I described the results of a survey of experienced process improvement personnel, testers or developers felt contribute to a successful Agile implementation. Tied for second place in the survey were team engagement and generating early feedback. These two concepts are curiously inter-related.

Team engagement is a reflection of motivated and capable individuals working together.  Agile provides teams with the tools to instill unity of purpose. Working with the business on a continuous basis provides the team a clear understanding of the project’s purpose. Short iterations provide the team with a sense of progress. Self-management and retrospectives provide teams with a degree of control over how they tackle impediments.  Finally, the end-of-sprint demonstrations provide early feedback. Feedback helps reinforce the team’s sense of purpose, which reinforces motivation.

Early feedback was noted in the survey as often as team engagement. In classic software development projects, the project would progress from requirements through analysis, design, coding and testing before customers would see functional code.  Progress in these methods is conveyed through process documents (e.g. requirements documents) and status reports. On the other hand, one of the most important principles of Agile states:

Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

Delivering functional software provides all of the project’s stakeholders with explicit proof of progress, and provides stakeholders with a chance to provide feedback based on code they can execute. Early feedback increases stakeholder engagement and satisfaction, which also helps to motivate the team. As importantly, since stakeholders see incremental progress, any required course corrections are also incremental.  Incremental course corrections help to ensure that when the project is complete that most value possible has been delivered.

Team engagement and early feedback are both important to successful Agile implementations. Interestingly, both concepts are inter-twined. Feedback helps to generate engagement and motivation. As one of the respondents to the survey stated, “Agile succeeds when it instills ‘unity of purpose’ and builds a ‘community of trust’ within an organization.” Team engagement and early feedback provides a platform for Agile success.

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