Instilling Agile Processes In An Organization

Rukmini Reddy

SVP of Engineering at Slack



"When I joined my most recent team, it was widely believed that we were an agile engineering organization. I had noticed that the team was not necessarily abiding to agile principles. For example, the daily stand-up calls that were conducted globally consisted of 20 people and lasted an hour and a half. The deadlines were fluid, and stories were mostly incomplete at the end of the sprint. We used to scramble the night before the release increasing our unit test coverage to be able to meet platform limits."

Actions taken

"I discussed with my team to think math, if 20 engineers were spending 1.5 hour / day on scrum calls that was 30 hours of time spent daily on status updates. We agreed to adopt slack and move to a model of using a channel for most of our daily scrum updates and team communications to unblock each other and moved our call to 15 mins/day to discuss the most pressing issues only. If further discussion was needed we broke off into smaller groups to continue the discussion. To fix the fluid deadlines and incomplete sprints I got buy in that the only negotiables should be increase in resources or reduction in scope. To solve the problem of scrambling right before a release we formulated a 2 week sprint lifecycle where developers only code for five days, and on day five there is a demo for the product owner and QA. While the engineers are writing code, the QA team write test cases. On day six to ten the developers work on fixing issues reported during the demo, fix bugs, and groom the backlog for the upcoming sprint and you guessed it work on unit tests. Parallely the QA team completed test execution and got ready for their demos to the team This created a sense of ownership and accountability to every team member. By getting them to do the demo, engineers are faced with having to prove that their code/test works."

Lessons learned

"The team came to realize that this process was actually for them and it helped them to have a better work-life balance, as they made our engineering team much more efficient. However, it was more challenging than I had expected because engineers tend to hate process. Nobody wanted to click a start progress button in Jira. I would send them reminders on Slack and they would ignore me, I'd do it again and if they ignored me again I'd schedule a phone call with them, where I'd offer them help to figure out how to click the button. I had to be very persistent to get them to follow the process properly."

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Rukmini Reddy

SVP of Engineering at Slack

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesSoftware DevelopmentCareer GrowthAgile, Scrum & KanbanTeam & Project Management

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