Think Big - Act Small: A New Way For Agile Teams?

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Last updated on
31st May, 2022
26th Jul, 2018
Think Big - Act Small: A New Way For Agile Teams?

We all love planning. And planning big is what we do. Don’t you have great visions for your life when you start a brand new year? You identify a great big list of New Year resolutions and set yourself some goals to achieve within the year. When you are soon after your primary education you research and end up planning big on what academic and professional qualifications to achieve and within what timeframe.

Even Google has become a part of your elaborate planning! So much so that, even before you key in your exact query on planning, it readily comes up with so many suggestions!

Basically, even the search engine giant has got one thing right about you. You always plan big!!

But, Agile tells us to think big and not to plan big. Thinking big has a deep meaning. When you embark on a journey you need to think and clarify the bigger picture of the whole journey. For example, if your employees embark on their annual trip you need to set a bigger picture for the staff on the objectives of the trip. Is it merely a journey to somewhere far away, chill and come back the next day? Or are your objectives for the staff to bond a bit better, communicate and build team spirit that can create a positive atmosphere at your workplace?

Think big for your Agile projects as well. Identify the bigger picture for the solution that you are trying to develop. Spend time to understand the business outcomes that the solution is trying to achieve and know the key principles for high-performing Agile teams.

  • Is it a solution to improve efficiency?
  • Is it to improve collaboration and convenience?
  • Is it to increase profitability and market share of the organization through better reach?

Think about where the solution will be deployed and who will be using it. How will the solution get operationalized and what impact would it have on the Stakeholders. Try to draw forth as much information as possible to identify above aspects of the solution.

Thinking big is not only from the business perspective. Think big in terms of the entire solution landscape, the context and the entire solution architecture as well. There is no need to identify a comprehensive solution design and architecture right at the inception. But always keep the entire solution and the key components in mind when you do the design. Make it and evolving architecture by building in the capability to plug in components as and when required. Technology and client needs are changing and hence adaptability is a key.

Though you think big you must always make sure to take small baby steps at a time. Acting small means to identify the smallest piece of work or task that needs to be done to make sure that the project progresses forward. Think of a driver that has met with a car accident and is confined to a wheelchair. He will have to go through hours of physiotherapy just to be able to stand up on his two feet again. Then he will start taking one step at a time in his quest of walking again.

Concepts that can be measured while thinking Big

Concepts that can be measured while thinking Big
1) Working in a team incrementally and iteratively  
The product size determines how many increments it will take to complete the work. The notion behind working in iterations is to get the status of work at the end of the long stage. e.g. For Development stage, it may take two week cycles over the period of 3 months.

Working in increments shows doing a group of tasks at a time, then adding another group in the next iteration. At the end of each iteration, you can show the completed task to the client. This way helps to get early feedback, can update the changes, test out ideas, and deploying before the timeline.  
Working in a team incrementally and iteratively
Dedicated teams are nothing new to creative land, what is different, is that it means that they are really dedicated to the project full-time, rather than working on a bunch of other projects at the same time.
Now, we know in agency land, this can be hard to pull off, since we have a tendency to move resources around as needed, because of skill-level or other resource issues.

Now, you can still manage teams as a dedicated resource by, keeping all of the related projects with one team. All of the pieces are then prioritized (working with the client to decide). This gives you big idea on building a successful Agile team.
The big idea is that you work in a dedicated team, and at the end of each iteration, or time period, you have something of value to show the client. In the first time period, the client decides what should get worked on, and with each iteration you add things in the order they are of value (incrementally), and then repeat the process through multiple interactions till the work is done.

2) Change should be embraced

The client asks for change, team produce a change, and charge for it. In traditional methodology, teams were preventing change. For software development projects embracing the client’s changes early and updating before the deployment date can be very impactful.
Change should be embraced
Planning plays a crucial role in Agile. Though your end product is outstanding, how to deal with the market demands and conditions is critical part for embracing opportunity and change.In Agile methodology, the Stakeholder and the team prioritize and chooses the highest-priority work to be completed during that iteration. Being flexible at an iteration stage, the client should not ask for the changes during this time.
But your team can maintain the scope-of-work by working in 1 or 2 week intervals. If any changes needed then those changes can be pushed to the next iteration. There are some characteristics of new Agile teams that includes limit to what team can accomplish during a fixed period of time. Things can go out of the scope, resources and costs can still change.

Agile software development projects are exactly like that. You first think big to identify all components of the solution and the tasks that the team members need to work on as Product backlog items. These are initially at a really high level – may be as epics.

Now you can groom the stories and break them down into smaller stories or tasks that can be assigned to individual team members. Remember the 1-2-3-4 rule? One or two implementation team members should complete a story or task taken to the sprint within 3 to 4 days. Acting small will help the team develop something visual and demonstrable as soon as possible so that it can be sent for feedback as early as possible.

Cost of change curve
Think big, act small are 4 simple words with a great deep meaning which leads in creating new Agile teams. For an Agile team to become a successful robust team these are key principles for high performing Agile teams that can be preached and followed diligently.

So, do you think big but act small?



Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin