Updated: Sep 14, 2020
How Agile Principles Supported Our Start-up Through The Beginning of The Pandemic.
The true value of Agile, while always known to us, was reinforced for ezTagile when COVID-19 struck the global economy. Like most other companies, we could no longer conduct business the same way. Contracts were postponed, our office sat empty, and our usual practices were not designed to be fully remote. Luckily, strong leadership and our adherence to Agile Principles made us quick to adapt. But what did that look like? Well, we welcomed the changing requirements of our circumstance, worked together daily while building our goals around our team members, and relied upon the ceremonies which kept us connected and constantly reevaluating so that we could fine-tune our processes.
The first step was to open up to and understand our new set of circumstances, and so we began to self-evaluate. We took inventory of our finances, our resources, and our people. We learned what was working and what wasn’t, we followed the news and our industry’s reaction, and found out what was reasonable to expect. With this information, our CEO, Camille Spruill, and the leadership came up with a list of attainable goals and an actionable plan for us to follow. What’s more, great strides were made to keep our team informed and morale as high as possible. Before most companies had gotten a chance to announce their transition to the “new normal,” we understood our new parameters, how we were going to work within them, and why we were going to work that way. It made our transition to remote work immediate, and practically seamless; giving our small team the edge we needed to weather this difficult time.
Next, work was assigned and scheduled around the needs of our team members. Adjusting to remote work can be a challenge even under normal circumstances, but doing so in the face of the remote education, layoffs, and sick family members is another thing entirely. This is a fact that neither our team nor our leadership ever forgot, and it informed the way (and the times) that we worked. Our schedules were made flexible, but our expectations were clear, and we found time to meet and share the necessary information every day. This kept us in touch with each other and confident because we were given the tools and the trust we needed to perform our jobs. It may have been a scary time, but we had each other, and it kept us productive rather than scrambling and afraid.
Lastly, we leaned into daily Stand-Ups, Sprint Reviews, and Retrospectives more thoroughly than we ever had. The 15 minutes we spent each day in our Stand-Ups kept us grounded and accountable, but more importantly kept us accessible to each other despite the physical distance. The stand-ups were, and continue to be, a centralizing force that keeps us on the same track and our conversations focused (even those that branch off of errant messages on teams or last-minute emails). It kept our work from getting lost and our deadlines from being missed. The Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives every 2-week sprint were an excellent tool for us to look back on our work and understand what we had achieved and how well we achieved it. It was important in allowing us to fine-tune certain practices that needed to be changed and helped us to move in the right direction. However, it was also extremely important in ensuring we understood what we had done well and that our trajectory was, overall, a positive one. These ceremonies were a point of structure and stability in our otherwise flexible and quickly changing environment, and our team would have been far less productive - and likely, far less motivated - without them.
What we Gained
1. Efficient & Effective Change in Direction | We did not waste time or resources trying to figure out what or how we were going to do something. We took stock of the situation, made a plan, and enacted it. This allowed us to adapt our approach to our existing business opportunities while pivoting toward new ones, despite the downward spiraling market.
2. Fast-Paced Finessing | Once we had started with our new processes, we were quickly able to adjust what and how we were naturally doing things. There was no stopping and starting over when things didn’t work. We introduced changes organically and pulled, adjusted, or increased them as needed. Changes were evaluated and introduced in daily or bi-weekly cycles, not every quarter, which would have been far too slow.
3. Flexibility & Stability as Needed | We were able to do our jobs when and how we needed to, but were never in doubt of what our expectations were or that we would be able to access the tools or the people we needed to interact with.
Despite the times, and the considerable number of small businesses going under, ezTagile is open with new prospects and plans. This accomplishment, without doubt, is a testament to our excellent team and our leadership’s foresight, but it is also largely a result of our Agile mindset. The argument for Agile, at its simplest, is an abstract one: Investment for more business and more flexibility. However, if you are looking for a more tangible argument, you need only look back at ezTagile – where despite the hard times – we are waving back at you with confidence, competence, and a lot of hope.