An agile response to crisis management

An agile response to crisis management

by Julie Cournoyer, Marketing Advisor
in collaboration with Guillaume Girard, Vice President, Software Engineering

At any moment, epidemics, disasters, and tragedies can turn the very existence of our businesses upside down. Many companies have a business continuity plan to ensure their survival in the event of a major crisis. Although such plans are often a good basis for continuing operations, the type of management required in times of crisis is quite different from what is practiced in normal times.

Managers must rely on the continuity of services and operations to plan the way out of the crisis. Due to its leadership-oriented approach, agility offers several advantages to companies. Below, our vice-president of software engineering, Guillaume Girard, provides an overview of the agile work method in the context of business continuity:

What is agility?

Agility is mainly about grouping people around a product, to improve it and maintain its effectiveness. At the same time, team self-organization is encouraged by choosing targets to be reached or problems to be solved, rather than assigning tasks to be carried out. This method makes it possible to focus the workforce on projects that provide added value to clients and companies.

What are the advantages of telework in agile mode?

The undeniable advantage is in reducing management time, which also reinforces the feeling of responsibility of teams toward the product they are working on. Agile teams are united by a common motivation, and teammates support each other. And when one team member can no longer contribute to the joint effort, the rest of the team can easily take over for the next few days or weeks. The continuity of essential activities and services within the company is thus ensured.

The five agile ceremonies (daily scrum, sprint, demo, retrospective, and refinement) help preserve the human aspect within teams and play an important role in troop morale. Daily scrums encourage discussion, help define objectives to meet, and allow difficulties that come up along the way to be raised. During sprints (periods in which several mini-projects are to be completed), teams coordinate naturally, and it is at this point that leadership takes on its full meaning. Managers can then focus on the essentials and take the reins of the company. Demos provide teams with an opportunity to showcase what was achieved during the sprint and encourage interaction between all the company’s employees. Retrospectives are an opportunity to express oneself freely and to look back on what went well and what went wrong during the sprint. The aim of this ceremony is nothing short of the continuous improvement of the agile work method. Finally, when a team is mature enough, the concept of refinement comes into play. During refinement, the team tries to make a rough estimate of the time required to complete the stories and reviews their order. This ceremony optimizes planning of the next sprint.

How do you successfully implement an agile work method?

The solution lies in the work of the scrum master, or a professional of the agile method, who facilitates gradual implementation of the five agile ceremonies. This person will not be responsible for solving everything, but they will see to it that any difficulties that arise are ironed out and that those in charge of a problematic situation are aware of the need to act as quickly as possible.

Is it possible to implement an agile working method while being forced to work remotely?

Absolutely. Willingness is the only thing that stands in our way. To make a successful agile transition, it is important to proceed in stages and to respect each team’s pace. Communication plays a vital role throughout the process. Whatever the implementation context, it is important to listen and answer all questions, so that everyone can fully and wholeheartedly participate.

If you don’t know where to start, many companies specialize in agile methods. They can help you automate the DevOps workflow, provide advice based on your needs, and support your teams during their first sprints, all remotely. These specialized firms are listed on the Agile Montréal website. In this regard, simple tools are already within everyone’s reach. An example is the Jira software design tool, which is popular with agile teams.

How can we standardize practice among teams?

First, by trusting that the teams will improve, and second, by applying the concept of “fast fail.” This concept refers to a radical change in strategy and business model, building on the experience and knowledge of the past. Retrospectives are key ceremonies in which it is possible to identify areas for improvement to increase a team’s maturity level. Managers also need to listen to what contributors raise as difficulties and try to resolve them. In addition, use of the five-tiered Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) will facilitate understanding of the targets to be achieved, so that each team can become a mature, even world-class team.

Agility has been part of Croesus’s reality for several months now. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the entire company to continue telework operations. The impact of this major change has not affected the performance of its teams. Our FinTech has even noticed some benefits, such as increased employee participation in product demos, increased punctuality at meetings, and better team cohesion. As a result of this experience, Croesus is convinced that it is in a good position to overcome any crisis.


Experience it yourself, see the difference