Simple Agile Can Earn You Time and Reduce Costs

David Pereira
David Pereira
Product Leader, Content Creator, Speaker
Posted on
Feb 14, 2023
Updated on
Apr 24, 2023
Table of Content

Simplifying what everyone else is complicating

How often do you have a feeling of wasting time? Maybe you have recurrent meetings you don’t know why you’re invited to. Perhaps, you invest a lot of time replying to messages but realize that the same topics keep coming back.

Unfortunately, getting trapped in situations where we waste time is easy—and it’s hard to realize that’s happening.

Let me ask you some questions, and I’d like you to take some minutes to reflect on them:

  • How many hours a week do you spend on meetings?
  • How do meetings contribute to achieving what matters right now?
  • How many emails do you write each day?
  • How do emails help you convey the message you want?
  • How much written communication do you use, and how does that contribute to clarity?

At least once a month, I step back from my busy routine and reflect on these questions. It helps me get back to simple agility, adapt my routine and ditch what isn’t helpful and simplify whatever I can.

I learned the importance of taking full ownership of my time instead of letting others do that.

Time is the most important asset we all share. Wasting it is costly and we cannot afford it in difficult times. Companies that mindfully use their time will stand out. Basic Agile principles can dramatically help you gain back your time.

Let me walk you through some opportunities to apply the basic principles of Agile to your daily life and regain plenty of time.

Getting Back to Basics

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed dramatically how we worked. More and more teams work entirely remotely. It’s great that we can spread teams worldwide, but some side effects hurt collaboration.

How often do you hear the following?

  • I’ve got too many meetings and no time to work
  • I’m busy with too many things at once

A meeting marathon combined with a lack of prioritization became the new normal. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Being busy isn’t the same as being productive.

I fear that we’ve forgotten a vital part of the Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

What I see is exactly the opposite of the above. Processes and tools over individuals and interactions.

We focus on recurrent meetings, tools, and meeting minutes, and forget why we’re doing that in the first place.

When I worked in the office, I had a physical space limitation. I could neither invite everyone to meetings nor would I have rooms available all the time. That forced me to be mindful about who to invite and when to have meetings. Today, we don’t have such limits, and that’s dangerous.

In difficult times like the ones we live in now, wasting time is a luxury we cannot afford. To overcome the recession, we need to get back to basics and be mindful of how we use our time— and others’. Here are my tips for getting back to basics and focusing on individuals and interactions:

  • Reduce recurrent meetings: Remove as many recurrent meetings as possible because they are time killers. Whenever you have something to deal with, involve the required people and address the topic.
  • Act spontaneously: Instead of planning every single interaction, you can just call people naturally. You don’t need a meeting on the calendar to talk to your colleagues all the time.
  • Aim for shorter meetings: Digital collaboration reduces the attention span, and people get distracted faster. It’s essential to be aware of that. I recommend 25 to 50 minutes only. Ensure breaks between sessions.
  • Focus: Prioritize one item at a time and ensure all your energy goes towards that. It’s naive to think we can handle multiple topics simultaneously. We may be able to do it, but not to our highest performance.

By reducing your meeting marathon, you gain cognitive power and regain your time. This will have a significant cost effect when the results you create.

Simplifying Communication

Whiteboards used to be my favorite tool. I love collaboration, and there’s nothing better than standing in front of a whiteboard and exchanging with intelligent people. But that changed, and it’s unlikely to make that possible for many people. That’s when the virtual tools gained more space.

I know we have amazing whiteboard tools nowadays — Miro and Mural, to name a few. But our challenges happen when we let tools and features drive our actions. Let me give you some examples:

  • You work on a board with your whole team. Then, after the session, you receive dozens of emails because people commented on the board, and they expect you to react, which you do. Unfortunately, the threads get extensive, and you feel confusion in the air.
  • As you work on a topic with your scrum team, some people get distracted and start interacting with other parts of the board. Soon you realize that you’ve got several sessions running at the same time, and you’re not building the shared understanding you longed for.

Tools are a means to an end and shouldn’t dictate how we work. On the contrary, they should serve our purpose.

Long comment threads will create confusion instead of help you build a shared understanding. Instead of letting comments distract you, having another session and continuing the work together is better. Remember, written communication accounts for 13% of our communication understanding. 

You can find the same situation on Jira, Asana, Slack, MS Teams, etc. Sometimes people tag me on a thread and assume I’m aware of and understand the message. Choosing a suitable communication medium is highly important. 

Most of the time, a five to ten minute video call avoids a three day comment thread.

Don’t forget that individuals and interactions must speak louder than processes and tools.

Moving Away from Abstract Plans

Another common challenge I face is our fear of the unknown. We constantly search for confirmation we’re doing the right thing and taking the right path. The result is long abstract discussions and nothing concrete.

Start-ups struggle to get investments because Venture Capitalists are cautious now. As a defense mechanism, it’s normal to work on detailed spreadsheets, slide decks, and plans. That will look beautiful in theory, but once it faces reality, you will get surprised.

Instead of investing time on abstract plans, teams increase the odds of success by getting hands-on as fast as possible. That’s not news; that’s part of the Agile Manifesto:

Responding to change over following a plan

It’s fine to start with a high-level plan and then get hands-on. The plan should have just enough to progress and learn. For me, a good one will contain the following attributes:

  • Destination: Point to the end result, where you want to land
  • Expected results: Define what success looks like
  • Investment: Determine how much time is worth investing to reach the desired results
  • What we know: Share the context related to what you already know
  • What we don’t know: Name the unknowns because they will show which blind spots you need to cover
  • Where to start: Define the first two or three steps to take—no more than that

When you keep the plan simple, you can get hands-on faster and learn from reality than spending lives in meeting rooms. Having a bias towards action will help you create value sooner.

Final Thoughts

We tend to ignore the power of simplicity because it sounds obvious and straightforward. We don’t accept life being that simple, and then we complicate what should not be complicated. 

Simplifying collaboration reduces costs and helps companies create more value. Time is money. Don’t waste it. Be mindful about it.

The beauty of Agile is removing distractions and focusing on what helps us create value right now.

It’s not about making promises; it’s about uncovering new opportunities. It’s about simplifying instead of complicating. It’s about learning by doing rather than trying to predict the future.

Agile is a journey, one step after the other. Constant progress and learning enable teams to create a brighter future.

About the author

David Pereira
Product Leader, Content Creator, Speaker

Product Leader with 15+ years of experience. Currently located in Munich, Germany and striving to help companies create value faster. I'm a Partner at Value Rebels and Interim Chief Product Officer at omoqo. My passion is helping product teams overcome their challenges and deliver REAL value faster. Almost every product team is trapped somehow, untrapping them is what drives me.

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