November 24, 2019 //

What Do Agile Communications Look Like?

Why has Agile become the most popular software development approach in the IT industry today? Because it works.

But… as I’ve been preaching for years now, Agile is not just a software development model…it’s a LEADERSHIP style.   And for purposes of this Blog (and perhaps future Blogs), I’d take that even one step further, and say that Agile is a LIFEstyleIT IS ABOUT BEING CRISP, LEAN AND THOUGHTFUL IN EVERY PIECE OF OUR DELIVERY PROCESS.

But for now, I’ll limit this Blog to some tips for living the Agile lifestyle through our COMMUNICATIONS.

3 Communication areas that can benefit from an Agile approach are as follows:

  • Email communications
  • Meetings
  • Documentation
  • Subject line:
    • Make your subject lines specific. Instead of “question for you” or “Need your help”, state the topic, purposeor ask, and deadline (if applicable)
    • If you require an urgent response, you can add “URGENT” to the subject line, or attach a “High Importance” Tag (in Outlook).
  • The very FIRST paragraph should start with the purpose or “ask” (for example, “I am writing to….”); subsequent paragraph(s) can then provide supporting details
  • For longer emails (that require set-up/background information), begin each “section” with bolded word(s) (e.g., “History”, “Current Problem”, “Next Steps”)
  • Emails should highlight (via bold, font color, highlighting tool, etc.) the facts, action points and relevant ownership, for ease/speed of audience reading/understanding
  • Be crisp, clear and to the point throughout (limiting any/all extraneous/tangential information –- when in doubt, leave it out)
  • Any “external” information should be referenced via inserting hyperlinks (versus embedding the external information itself within the email).
  • FINAL paragraph should restate the ask and the deadline (if applicable)
  • When replying to an email, make a conscious decision about whether to reply-to-all
  • Keep meetings SHORT (no more than an hour)
  • Meetings should have detailed agenda (preferably disseminated well in advance of the meeting)
  • Having pre-established Working Norms (AKA “meeting rules of engagement”) can work wonders toward holding more productive (and less divisive) meetings.
  • It is the meeting leader’s responsibility to ensure the attendants…
    • Stick to the Agenda items
    • Formally acknowledge and table unrelated discussions
    • Remain within assigned timebox
  • It is the meeting leader’s responsibility to ask someone to take/disseminate meeting minutes.
  • The leader needs to allow at least 10 minutes at the end of every meeting to discuss deliverables/next steps, and to schedule subsequent meeting(s).
  • Know your audience (to properly shape your language, terminology, acronyms, level of detail, etc.).
  • Always BEGIN with the INTENT of the document.
  • Unless you are 1000% certain that the readers will know your acronyms, SPELL THEM OUT
  • Section the document carefully (preferably with bold or larger font headings), for ease/speed of reading/understanding.
  • Limit the document to relevant information only; any external information should be referenced via hyperlinks and/or appendices (versus embedding the external information itself within the document).
  • Use active (versus passive) voice whenever possible (for example “The team experienced delays” vs. “Delays were experienced by the team”).
  • Abide by rules of proper grammar and punctuation; doing otherwise can be distracting (and potentially confusing).

So, here’s my challenge for you:  How much time are you wasting by writing email after email, attending meeting after meeting, or reading document after document… when clear and crisp communication could have mapped out the problem and next steps much more immediately?  I’ll be honest, writing this Blog reminded me of past communications in which I could absolutely have been more Agile!  In what types of communication do you think you could improve your Agility, and in what way(s)?  Please leave your replies below!

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