How does Agile apply to Operations?

Much of my working career has involved a mixture of project delivery and operations and while the technology has changed since the 90’s what defines excellent project delivery or great operations hasn’t.

Excellent project delivery is all about time, cost and quality/value-added and operations is about the processes and services that continue to deliver value outside of a project. (To understand what is a project have a read over at PMI.)

One of the unique aspects of operations, unlike a project, is that operations never stops. Operation teams have no control over their workload. Unlike say an agile team “pulls” product backlog items into their sprint plan based on what they feel they can commit too. An operational team,especially customer facing team, has to manage whatever work they receive from their a customers.

But this constant flow of work doesn’t mean agile practices aren’t relevant. If anything, I often feel they are more relevant to operations than delivery! One of the critical values of agile is the need to respond to constant change, a definite need in operations today. In fact, all four agile values apply more to operations that delivery but that is a topic for another day.

The key to introducing agile to operations teams and to respond to change is to understand the heart of agile:

  • Collaboration
  • Delivery
  • Reflection
  • Improvement

These four principles can guide any team through the introduction of agile. I’m a firm believer that if you are living these values, the actual tools and techniques you are using are irrelevant. (Sorry to all the agile coaches and trainers our there.) Having said that there are a few “traditional” tools and techniques that can help operations teams.

So here’s my list of some easy agile practices/ideas that can help operations teams:

  1. Daily Stand-Ups
  2. Fortnightly Retrospectives
  3. Kanban boards
  4. Visual Indicators of success
  5. Theory of Constraints

What are your go to agile practices and ideas?

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