Time management

Mastering Time Management with Agile Principles

See Agile Time Management (ATM) makes adapting to challenges and interruptions throughout a project’s lifecycle easier.
It soothes the likelihood of not meeting deadlines because it helps to differentiate between urgency and importance.  

Something urgent often requires immediate action.

Think of it like a glaring red traffic light – it demands your attention, and you likely face dire consequences if you avoid it.

The problem is that spending too much time putting these fires out can take days away from focusing on the big picture. 

That’s a lot of time, considering a sprint lasts one to two weeks

Scrum Time Management (STM) is another popular approach to organizing workflow.

However, it’s more specific than ATM because it requires that particular roles engage in associated actions to stay on schedule. 

The main difference between the two is while all STM practices are on ATM principles, not all ATM concepts rest on STM standards. 

This article will explain why each approach to time management works, outline the fundamental principles of both, and provide examples of how you can apply ATM or STM to your organization. 


Why Is Agile Time Management so Popular?

 

TechReport suggests that 71 percent of U.S. companies use Agile.

That’s because ATM is based on fundamental principles that allow organizations to quickly and efficiently respond to change. 

They include:

Streamlined Workflow 

ATM encourages team members to work iteratively on small tasks, making them easier to finish.

Otherwise known as time-boxing, this approach limits small assignments to a specific period.

Employees receive feedback on their actions, then allot another time box to incorporate feedback or move on to the project’s next phase.

“Having a strict limit on a planned activity is a defense against the trap of Parkinson’s law. It suggests that work expands to fill the time available to complete it,”

says Behavioral Design Writer Nir Eyal. 

Treat this process like an experiment you can refine during sprint retrospectives and reviews.

“Follow your schedule to the best of your ability and continue to the next thing you planned to spend time on. When you get distracted, write down what happened,”

Eyal says.

Brainstorm how to avoid the same challenges in the future with your team. 

Better Resource Management

Resources in this context are time, money, and talent.

Differentiating between urgent and essential tasks and time-boxing your workflow around those parameters creates space for problem-solving.

Sometimes, the solution to streamlining an urgent matter lies within the results of your next focus session.

That could mean drafting a proposal to share how other departments can help you meet the deliverable during the next daily stand-up or sprint review. 

This way, you’re decreasing the risk of putting precious time, money, or brain power into completing a task beyond your scope.

Improved Customer Retention

We live in a world where better is now, so it’s no surprise that many companies adopting Agile principles have seen a spike in customer retention.

ATM’s continuous delivery and implementation nature speaks to the restlessness of consumer culture without sacrificing quality. 

A digital.ai study reports that 70 percent of Agile participants have improved their ability to manage changing priorities.

Another 52 percent streamlined managing cross-functional teams.

Finally, 49 percent of businesses have reduced market risks because of increased adaptability to changing customer needs.  

Put simply, team members focus on removing obstacles to a successful product delivery throughout the life of a project.

These obstacles are based on stakeholder feedback, which includes users.

This process is repeated throughout a project’s lifecycle, allowing for the continuous delivery of an updated offering that reflects market trends. 


How to Apply these principles to your organization 

Streamline Your Workflow

Step 1: Assess the Big Picture

Start by taking a step back to examine your organization’s operational practices.

Analyze what will help or hinder you from meeting your business goals.

Say you own an athleisure site launching a new athletic wear line.

Some big-picture objectives might be expanding your audience or introducing more competitive prices.

Write these down to decipher the necessary actions you’ll need to take from ideation to completion. 

Step 2: Do the Biggest Tasks First 

Web design agency CEO Domantas Vanagas suggests asking yourself,

“What are the critical elements of your overall project operation? Where must you improve yourself, and which tasks must be done soon?”

Once you identify the necessary work, outline roadblocks to completing it.

This will help you prioritize projects by starting or finishing the most time-intensive ones. 

Step 3: Compartmentalize 

Using a bird’s eye view can make projects seem daunting.

We suggest breaking down each task related to your overall business goal into smaller steps.

Going back to the online athleisure idea, small tasks associated with introducing more competitive pricing include: 

  • Brainstorming and sketching designs

  • Sourcing high-quality materials 

  • Researching hand-made vendors to collaborate with 

Manage Your Resources

Step 1: Start Assigning Tasks

As you assign tasks, match employees with projects you know speak to their expertise.

Doing so will increase their chances of meeting deliverables quickly and up to standard. 

For your athleisure line, you’ll need a user experience (UX) designer to ensure an aesthetically pleasing experience that reflects the quality of your clothes and competitive asking price.

Managing your resources this way decreases the likelihood of delays or extra expenses due to mistakes made by team members needing more skills. 

Improve Your Customer Retention

Step 1: Check Each Task for Quality

As your team works, make time for feedback.

That could be having your programmer browse your site to share opinions on what they liked or didn’t like about the web page design.

Forbes suggests employees become more engaged when they feel their work is effective.

This correlates with increased happiness, and digital.ai’s study suggests this iterative feedback loop enhances software quality in 45 percent of organizations. 

Whatever the industry, we know sustaining exceptional standards is critical to finding and keeping customers. 

Step 2: Improve Any Mistakes or Errors

You’ve launched your athleisure line at competitive market prices, and it’s a hit across your target audience.

However, product reviews consistently highlight shipping delays. Streamlining this process could be extending your expedited shipping option to four days instead of two to leave room for error.

Step 3: Integrate the Results

Once you’ve addressed challenges, apply these improvements to the development process of each new project.

Tweak each suggestion as you go; the essence of Agile is adaptability! 

This continuous feedback loop will help you finish tasks more quickly as you’ll avoid making the same mistakes.

Otherwise known as predictability of delivery, take time to refine your understanding of the actual life cycle of a project compared to how long you thought it would take.

Use this information to streamline workflow moving forward.  

Scrum Time Management

STM is based on iterative, two to four-week sprints.
These time blocks involve a variety of processes executed by different team members.

STM fosters a collaborative and iterative environment that encourages transparency and feedback, helping to minimize project confusion and decrease delivery time. 

Principles of STM include:  

A Product Backlog

This document lists all tasks necessary to complete a project.

It’s the starting point for STM and helps to create a plan for each sprint.

The Product Owner usually manages the Product Backlog.

After meeting with a client, they communicate the offering, share the customer’s vision, and relay stakeholders’ desires to the development team. 

Sprint Backlog

This document helps team members examine what must be tackled first during a sprint.

It encourages them to focus on those steps before moving on to new ones.

The Scrum Master leads the team by making sure everyone completes their assignments.

They also help troubleshoot roadblocks to meeting deadlines.

This methodology saves time by creating a managed workflow adjustable to product and production needs. 

Sprint

This allotted time is for the development team to execute on meeting the planned deliverables.

Whether designing an application or launching a marketing campaign, the group focuses on completing all the necessary tasks to ensure a successful resolution.

This process is cyclical as team members loop through developments until the two-week cycle is over—the Product Owner and team swap feedback during this time. 

Sprint Review

This practice is for team members to examine success and challenges.

Employees share ready deliverables with the Product Owner in shippable increments.

They re-design and re-try those that aren’t launchable in the next iteration, starting with a sprint retrospective.

This process saves time by streamlining the planning and execution steps.

The constant feedback loop shared during daily stand-ups, sprint retrospectives, and reviews ensures everyone is on the same page when meeting

The Definition of Done (DoD).

In STM, all the items in the Product Backlog are completed on time and up to quality standards communicated to the team.

This increased visibility through the development process reduces the risk of confusion that leads to delays. 


Why Does Scrum Time Management Work? 

Put simply, STM leaves room for error and changes.

“It makes an adaptable plan that you can adjust to meet your needs without impacting your sprints’ overall effectiveness,”

Vanagas says. Respondents to Scrum Alliances 2017 – 2018 State of Scrum report stated Scrum Practices decreased project length to 11.6 weeks. 

It’s important to note that personalizing these Scrum processes to your business objectives, successes, and failures is essential to effective STM.

Let’s look deeper at how you can tailor STM to your needs.


Applying Scrum to Your Organization  

Creating a Product Backlog 

Step 1: Work With the Project Owner

It’s important to hear what a client wants; this information will guide the business objectives specified in your Product Backlog.

Say your customer desires to create a portable testing kit with microchips users can plug into their electric devices for specific information on an illness.

Understanding what electric devices the chip needs to be compatible with or what diseases the testing kit scans for can help guide your development process.

  

Streamlining the Sprint

Step 1: Plan 

Break down your development process into simple steps on which team members can focus during each Sprint.

Record this information in your Sprint Backlog, prioritizing those items that require the most time, effort, and collaboration.

For the portable testing kit, start deciphering what to test for, as that will guide which medical institutions you’d like to partner with.

Step 2: Assign Teams

Whatever your workflow, ensure everyone is on the same page regarding task delegation and steps.

Feel free to refine this backlog based on new developments.

There are many platforms you can use to organize and record information.

Our preferences include IBM Rational DOORS, Jama Connect, and ReqView

Remember to allocate roles based on skillset to ensure quality results that work within the time box. 

Sprint

Step 1: Execute 

Adjust your development process as needed throughout each two to four-week iteration so you’re better equipped to respond to change.

You may need to create multiple testing chips in each kit instead of one.

Perhaps the technology to detect neurological and reproductive illnesses with a singular chip still needs to be developed. 

Sprint Review 

Step 1: Talk About It

At the end of each Sprint, talk to your team about what worked and how to streamline challenges.

Incorporate this feedback throughout your development process and see how much time you can reduce.

If you’re looking for tailored recommendations on how  your organization can streamline business practices using ATM or STM-

email us at talkagile@agileseventeen.com