Diving deeper (Agility Part II): How agility is lived within our teams
Valentina and Christian are both Engineering Managers in two of our five agile teams (named by the colors pictured above), that form the Product & Tech area at sofatutor. Together with them we take a look at the work of Team Green and Team Purple and find out how agility is lived in individual and collaborative work. Today you will find out why agile ways of thinking have led to sofatutor’s product and tech team not working uniformly according to the strict Scrum style.
As our five agile cross-functional teams mostly work in Scrum settings, there are exceptions that prove the rule of thinking agile. Instead of using Scrum elements, Team Purple, whose mission is the Buying Experience of our products, rather works in a Kanban framework. Why is that?
As the team aims to convert our website visitors into sofatutor users, their work shows marketing dynamics and proximity to customers and users. Conducting a variety of A/B tests, the frontend-focused team continuously adapts function and design of our visitor pages in a customer-oriented manner to improve their buying experience. This highly flexible customer orientation constantly creates new tasks and therefore demands adaptable adjustment options for work processes and the distribution of tasks. With workflows based on the prioritization principle and shorter sprints, Kanban offers more leeway for Team Purple than a Scrum framework, which supports more long-term projects. Kanban teams focus on completing a project (or user story) as quickly as possible. To do this, they use a so called ‘Kanban board’ and continuously improve their workflow.
Valentina (Engineering Manager in Team Purple) enjoys the team’s work dynamic and speed that picks up during the current high season. After a relatively relaxed summer, students, parents and teachers are now fully back into schools and new learning opportunities. Nothing to worry about for Valentina: ‘There’s always fresh and new work in our team’, she says. Team Purple successfully defined the way of agility that works best to them: In daily standups they get together, to evaluate whether tasks need to be adjusted. Pair programming, creative sessions and workshops support team internal knowledge transfer, and a collective planning, taking place on Monday afternoons, forms the basis of this dynamic way of working.
Looking into other cross-functional teams in Product & Tech, whose workflows are better supported by Scrum elements, you get to know Team Green.
With its mission ‘Internal Team Experience’, Team Green works with different elements from the Scrum framework: Work processes are updated in daily standups, precisely defined in plannings, carried out in two-week sprints and evaluated in retros (see: Thinking agile Part I).
For Christian (Engineering Manager in Team Green), a close cooperation between product owner and developer team is essential for working in Scrum. Developers work very independently, have a lot of say and responsibility within the big team.
The goal always is, to jointly develop a minimal viable product, working as a stable foundation, that can be flexibly built on in smaller steps. ‘Scrum does not build prefabricated houses, nor is it a template that can be applied unadjusted to individual teams and missions’. The framework is implemented differently everywhere. However, working in different Scrum teams, it has always been essential that from one large mission or big feature, many small tasks could be put together. In Team Green Backend, Frontend and Fullstack Developers break down project tasks into smallest units and specify their workload in story points. Such small work packages can be processed differently, are more independent, and thus maintain the flexibility of the team.
Whether Scrum or Kanban, the individual mission of teams and the goal of implemented frameworks should always be reconciled. Because agility means flexibly moving beyond defined settings in order to benefit from those approaches that are best suited to the situation.
As a techie or marketer, creative or P&C-professional, from Germany or the US, if you want to accompany us on our way and experience digital education up close, we look forward to receiving your application via our website!