This week I took part in my first Agile sprint. This was an entirely new experience for me as a) it is the first time my team has worked this way since I joined in January and b) I worked as a journalist before joining Bath, so most things here have been a new experience.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology of project management, Sprints are part of an Agile process that uses Scrum. This isn’t the place for a detailed definition, but without being too reductive the following occurs:
- a planning meeting is held
- a sprint goal is agreed
- tasks for the sprint are identified
- time estimates are given to tasks
- daily stand-up meetings at the project board are held where work is reviewed and de-scoped if necessary
- the sprint goal is (hopefully) met within the timeframe
- a retrospective meeting is held.
Happily, we achieved our sprint goal. Things broadly went according to plan - although lessons have been noted from what we could have done better that will be implemented in future sprints.
I have to say I found the experience very stimulating. Changing career from one very unique industry (journalism) to another (Higher Education) involves a lot of adjustment, but of all things I have been involved with in my time at Bath, this sprint reminded me most of my previous line of work.
Working under the pressures of a fixed, non-negotiable deadline is very familiar to me, and something I feel I really respond to. As a sub-editor, I had to meet several deadlines a day, every day, and the length of a ‘project’ (edition) depended whether or not it is a daily or a weekly title. Adjusting to an environment where work is carried out to a deadline that is days, weeks or even months away has been novel.
Focus and clarity
To my mind, working in a scrum provided the following advantages:
- clarity of goals and timescales
- greater collaboration with team members, particularly with those who have a different skill set from myself
- the opportunity to discuss work in a focused manner, arriving at better resolutions through a robust exchange of views
- an end result where a solid, tangible product has been produced
The time pressures and focus offered by Scrum appeals to the practical, task-orientated side hard-wired into me by eight years in newsrooms, but the sprint gave me scope to offer my opinions and shape our work that the rigid processes of newspaper publishing never allowed for. I look forward to Sprint 2.