Many of us use agile techniques and principles in our work lives. But how would you apply it to your own business? This post is about how we at Growing Agile keep everything we do visual and prioritised.
Planning & Structure
We split our days into 4 slots of 1.5hrs with 30 min breaks between and an hour for lunch. Then we have 5 areas we need to focus on. These evolved over time, but have been been the same for around 6 months now. These are the categories that are important to our business – so they would be different for everyone.
- Sales – this is building relationships, meeting new clients, existing clients, coffee’s with ScrumMasters, events etc.
- Learning – this is our own learning time. Working on our goal for the month, reading, courses, our coaching etc.
- Recurring – this includes our newsletter, admin, blog writing, planning, retrospectives – basically anything that happens regularly.
- Paid Work – this is training, coaching and preparation for those.
- Other – this is for things that are ad-hoc, like flights, public holidays etc.
We decide on a percentage split between the above categories that makes sense for us. We then allocate slots every two weeks according to these percentages. We have 4 slots a day, so a total of 20 slot a week. So for example: If 50% of our time is on paid work, then we allocate 10 slots to this every week.
Every 2 weeks we have a planning slot, where we plan our time for the next 4 weeks. The next 2 weeks are usually in detail and the following 2 weeks have more free time. This allows us to see what’s coming up and schedule client meetings. It also allows us not to over commit. We also try group our time, so that we have in-office and out-of-office days. The red circles are for out-of-office days.
Our plan goes into our google calendar and up on the wall in front of us using stickies. We adjust it as we need, but the big win here is that instead of cancelling a slot, we shift it somewhere else. This helps us ensure we are allocating our time to our agreed priorities.
Every 4 weeks we have a retrospective. We always use our past plan and adapt to make it work for us. It has changed ALOT over the last 18 months – I am pleased to say that it brings calm, happiness and structure to our lives 🙂
Depending on what slot we are in we have different ways to prioritise the work we do.
As mentioned we have an admin slot. We only plan this after a trip away. Usually we pick up admin tasks in our 30 min breaks or during lunch. After a trip, we find that we have more admin, because we are not doing it in our breaks, hence the slot allocation. All our admin tasks are small, around 5 – 10 minutes. We have a board on the wall with 4 headings: OneDay, ThisMonth, ThisWeek, Today. As we think of an admin task, we write it on a small post it and stick it up on the board in the appropriate column. The rule is: If it doesn’t have to be done today, then it shifts to ThisWeek etc.
The good thing about this board is we don’t feel like we’re going to forget something. We don’t need to do the action when we remember and get distracted, we just write it down and move on. Also it gives us a place to put those random “I just has an awesome idea! We MUST do it!” thoughts. And then in a few weeks, when we’re less attached to that great idea, we can admit it wasn’t that great and just get rid of the sticky 🙂 Once a month we clean the board and get rid of everything we are ready to admit will just never happen.
As a small startup its up to us to keep our website looking good and working well. We have many ideas and improvements and things we want to do. On our wall we have a quadrant with axes for Effort (low to high) and Value (low to high). All ideas go onto stickies and are placed on the quadrant relative to others with how much effort they will be vs their end value to us.
When we have a website slot, we first pull tasks from the low effort, high value quadrant, then from the high effort, high value etc. This helps us prioritise the highest ROI items first. It also gives us a place to keep all the ideas we have for our website.
For those of you who don’t know – we are about half way through writing a book. We manage this using a standard Kanban board. When we have a book slot – we pull from the board until the slot is up. We are also working on the South African version of Who Is Agile? Similarly this is visualised with a kanban board.
Occasionally we have big brainstorming sessions 🙂 I LOVE them! We get to think wacky and crazy. Similarly to the Website board these go onto an Idea quadrant with Effort and Value axes. Once in a while we will feel inspired enough to turn an idea into our retro goal for the month. We will take the idea, and figure out how we will work on that idea.
We have a retrospective once a month. There are 2 of us and our retros are 90 minutes long. If we try to do this in a shorter period – we find that we are not digging deep enough to make great improvements. Our retros are planned and time-boxed. We go through all 5 stages (as per Agile Retrospectives). We change the activities every time and as there are only 2 of us, we both facilitate and take part. Each retrospective results in 1 goal for the following month, and it gets goal slots in our 4 week plan. Our goal is run as an experiment with outcomes, or assumptions we want to prove.
We also have a blog post ideas board and a sales board. As you can imagine – our boards take up ALOT of wall space. In fact all the walls in our office are used. The cool thing about this is at a glance – we can tell you just about anything about our business. It helps us stay focus and working on the most important thing right now.
Hope this gives you some insight into using visual stimuli in your office environment 🙂 One interesting insight about our boards is that they track what we need to do, rather than what we have done. As soon as work is done the sticky goes in the bin. This is primarily because we don’t really care how much we do, we care that important stuff gets done, and that we spend our time in the most effective way possible. If this post inspires you to try a new type of board, let us know in the comments.