How to Make Agile Work in Fast-Growing Startups

TL;DR: How to Make Agile Work in Fast-Growing Startups

From 2010 to 2017, I was working several years in three Berlin-based, fast-growing startups in my capacity as Scrum Master, agile coach, and Product Owner. These are my lessons learned on how to make ‘agile’ work in a fast-growing startup, and what anti-patterns to avoid at all costs.

How to make Agile Work in Fast-Growing Startups – Age of Product

Source: What is Agile?

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How to Align Scrum Teams

TL;DR: How to Align Scrum Teams

Do you remember the good old days when the organization started with its first Scrum team? And the new engineering kid on the block was “merely” supposed to deliver a potentially shippable product increment at the end of a sprint?

The first team was to sound the bell for the upcoming change towards a learning organization. Little did we know back then about the challenges along that route. When teams 2, 3 and 4 joined, shipping a product increment at the end of a sprint became first complicated, and then complex.

It turns out that becoming agile does not only required to create (Scrum) teams. Reaping the full benefits of becoming agile, of becoming a learning organization built around software also requires changing engineering practices. Nowadays, it is all about continuous value delivery.

Agile Transition: How to Align Scrum Teams
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Agile Metrics — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

TL;DR: Agile Metrics

Suitable agile metrics reflect either a team’s progress in becoming agile or your organization’s progress in becoming a learning organization.

At the team level, qualitative agile metrics typically work better than quantitative metrics. At the organizational level, this is reversed: quantitative agile metrics provide better insights than qualitative ones.

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Product Backlog Refinement — Agile Transition Part 2

Product Backlog Refinement—TL;DR

Where to start when kicking-off an agile transition?

Usually, tools and processes are smallest the common denominator among all participants, as they are at the core of the grand scheme of agile things.

It is a rare occasion that you start from scratch with a brand-new team without an existing product, probably even in a more or less nascent organization, for example a startup.

In most cases, an existing product delivery organization with available products, and services will go “agile“. In this case, turning attention to the available product backlog is a pragmatic first step. The following process describes what aspects need to be attended to to optimize the outcome.

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How to Kick-off Your Agile Transition (Part 1)

Agile Transition—TL;DR

A hands-on, practical guide on how to kick-off an agile transition: Embrace the agile mindset and scale your engineering and product organization to harvest your organization’s full potential.

How to Kick off Your Agile Transition: Scrum Team #1 – Age of Product
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Ebookmakr Failure: The Fallacy of Knowing What to Build – The Post Mortem

Executive Summary – Lessons Learned from Ebookmakr’s Failure:

  1. Love the problem more than your solution.
  2. Don’t push too far your dreams of China in your hand.
  3. Use prototyping tools such as Marvel when running user interviews. (More here: Four Lessons Learned From Making Customer Value Your Priority.)
  4. Be careful with the selection process for user interviews: You might end up picking those that will support your vision – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy trap.
  5. Beware of false positives in user interviews.
  6. Never start writing a single line of code before an appropriate number of customers signed up. (For clarification: Customers are paying users.)
  7. Never spend money on developing a prototype when you’re not working full-time on growing the user-base and increasing customer value.
  8. Be patient and give your product the time it needs.
  9. Always make branded t-shirts and wear them later regularly to preserve the recollection of the disaster. (See below.)
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