Your Agile Projects Need Continuous Feedback

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The following article is a guest post to Zephyr from Rodney West, Senior Consultant and the Editorial Director at Isos Technology. Isos Technology is a partner of Zephyr and is the market leader in solving complex enterprise challenges from Agile adoption and QA to DevOps and they help teams improve quality and speed delivery.

The beauty of Agile development lies in self-correction and adjustment. When development runs into obstacles, they can quickly be identified and overcome. As new requirements come in, they can be properly prioritized and incorporated into the project. Agile encourages changing technologies and design patterns as the need arises. These statements are obvious to anyone with experience in Agile development.

What most Agile projects ignore is applying Agile principles to the people on the team. Sure, simpler team composition aspects may be addressed, such as how many developers are needed for upcoming sprints, whether or not a dedicated DBA is needed and what kind of DevOps resources are required. However, tasks dedicated to improving members of the project team are given little thought. Continuous feedback is an excellent way to address this issue.

Continuous feedback differs from traditional performance reviews in the same way Agile development differs from the waterfall model.

Traditional performance reviews are constrained by annual, semi-annual or quarterly schedule, delaying feedback. This approach works okay when it comes to normal organizational compensation activities such as raises, promotions and bonuses. Unfortunately, areas for improvement may not be addressed in a timely fashion, which can easily result in decreased performance, missed opportunities and lower employee satisfaction.

In contrast, continuous feedback brings the self-correcting aspects of Agile development to the employee review process. Strengths and weaknesses of team members can be more readily identified, illuminating paths for skill growth and improvement in Agile productivity. It is important to keep in mind that continuous feedback that the inclusion of continuous feedback does not have to happen at the expense of more traditional review models. Instead, use continuous feedback to augment those models.

First Steps

Once you decide to make continuous feedback a part of your process, there are a few steps you can take early on in the process to be successful.

1. Choose tooling

One of the first steps should be choosing tooling. Ideally you will be generating a good amount of feedback over time. Feedback should be easy and intuitive for team members to enter. It should be easy to track. The tooling should let you identify performance objectives the same way you would any other project objectives. You should also look for tooling that allows easy visualization of performance, for both project managers and team members.

The biggest mistake you can make is choosing inadequate tooling out of the gate. Inadequate tooling can easily result in disillusioned team members and the addition of fruitless project overhead.

2. Get team member buy-in

Another crucial step is getting the buy-in of team members. This is just as important as good tooling. Continuous feedback relies heavily on honest feedback. Team members need to know their feedback is valued by project management and has a tangible impact.

Continuous feedback will become a pillar of your team culture over time. While crafting processes and flows you should always keep this in mind. Team members need a to understand that the goal of continuous feedback is improving their skills and abilities in a respectful and safe way.

3. Keep continuous feedback Agile

This is an ongoing “step” (more of an escalator). The process and goals for continuous feedback should be constantly evolving, just as any other part of an Agile project. Team members constantly grow their skills, behaviors change and team compositions shift. Ensuring continuous feedback is constantly adapting will keep it salient.

An important part of keeping the feedback process Agile is including actionable items. Feedback tasks should be viewed the same as any other Agile task, complete with deliverables. Though these deliverables may be harder to measure, they will be crucial to continuous feedback contributing to your Agile projects.

Author Rodney West: Rodney West is a Senior Consultant and the Editorial Director at Isos Technology. He has over 17 years of experience in Software Development, Software Architecture and Technical Leadership in a wide range of industries. His approach to software development focuses on the interaction between corporate culture and development processes in the delivery of software.