Test Your Agile Framework for Simplicity

Processes tend to become complex and unwieldy over time. Our natural tendency is to continue adding process versus removing it so its important to test the simplicity of your processes every once in a while.

One way to test for simplicity is to use your full Agile process with your college interns during their time with your company. Most interns have never participated in any organizational process let alone an Agile framework. If they can understand and embrace the process in the short amount of time they are here, you are probably in good shape. Plus, you’ll also discover if they are good candidates to be working in a highly collaborative Agile culture.

At Cars.com, we are wrapping up our third intern team over the past year with good results. Here are the steps we are using to kick-off and implement our intern teams using our Agile framework:

Assign a product owner volunteer. This person does not need to be full time but should be able to commit a couple hours a week to the intern team.

Provide a Scrum Master. The Scrum Master will teach and guide your Agile framework but will also facilitate Scrum events just like any other team.

Give them a meaningful goal. The product owner can pull a low impact feature from their current product roadmap or establish something new. Either way, it should be something valuable.

Assign technical mentors. If your interns are developers, assign them a dedicated contact to walk them through any technical complexities or questions.

Facilitate a joint discovery sprint. The product owner will work with the technical mentor and the team to establish a vision for the feature the interns will be creating. Technical constraints will be addressed during this sprint.

Follow the same process as your other Agile teams. The team will create a product backlog of stories and begin working sprints. The team participates in planning sessions, daily Scrums, review sessions, and retrospectives just like any other team.

Listen closely during the retrospectives. If much of the feedback is centered on the process and not about delivering customer value, your framework may need to be looked at. Listen for impediments around initial on boarding as this may be an indication your new hires are facing the same issues.

A big thank you to Mark Des Biens, the Scrum Master for the intern program here at Cars.com, for contributing to this post. When I asked Mark about his experience with the interns, he mentioned some of the following benefits:

Interns learn the process, teams and tools. By doing this together, the team quickly comes together with a common cause.

Repetition drives improvement for the interns and for our process. Changes are valued and every two weeks the team gets a fresh start with new commitments.

Individuals have a VOICE. Impediments and risks are drawn out early and often. Interns feel they can ask for help without fear of retribution. (Love this one Mark!)

Valuable results are delivered to our customers. Teams have delivered valuable services that have been incorporated into other teams and deployed to production.

On boarding new hires becomes a breeze. Bringing on a team members having already been through releases, sprint planning, reviews and retrospectives is incredibly easy.

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