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Defining Agile Principle #7: Finishing One Task Before Moving On

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 5/25/2013

In projects that use the Agile Management Methodology, what is Agile Principle #7? Is it more important than the other nine principles of Agile? Often, the 7th principle is utilized in Agile sprints and it just may be the most important principle in the entire process.

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    What Is It?

    Lucky Number 7 by Zitona Some may say the Pareto principle, the eighth principle in Agile Management, is the most important. Others insist it’s principle #7. The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 when referring to Agile, basically means that 20 percent of the work effort on the project is necessary where 80 percent is futile, or a waste of time.

    Agile principle #7, however, takes the 80/20 rule a step further by utilizing the sprint system effectively. When utilizing Agile in any project, sprints are tasks completed by teams in a determined amount of time, usually anywhere from one to four weeks. At the end of the sprint, the task should not only be completed, it should be considered done and ready for the client or stakeholder.

    Principle #7, if not adhered to in Agile, will not only delay a project but also will ingest too much time over-thinking a decision when perhaps the outcome was correct in the first place.

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    The Importance of Principle #7

    Why is this principle so important in Agile project management? Essentially, not only does rule #7 mean the iteration result of the sprint is complete, it also means not moving on to another task until the current one is done, finished, and acceptable.

    Even adhering to principle #7 won’t always mean the team working on a project element will mean the task is done. What is beneficial, however, is at the end of the sprint, it’s time for client or stakeholder input where problems or concerns are identified quickly and can be remedied quickly.

    This Agile principle also works well when parallel teams are working on different tasks relating to the same project goal. Agile sprint meetings are essential and should be completed daily, especially if there are parallel teams.

    In Agile management, most of the time, with empowered teams, a sprint iteration will be successful, especially if there is broad communication and decision-making at the team or even on an individual level.

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    Best Practices

    Being Agile in your projects is a commitment. When using the guidelines of rule seven in Agile, at project initiation, make sure your teams understand what Agile iterations mean and why they are important. Weak areas of any sprint iteration should be identified and confronted at daily sprint meetings. While this could cause some discontent amongst teams or individuals, that is part of being Agile. It’s a work ethic as well as a project management process.

    At sprint initiation meetings, follow these practices when applying this Agile principle

    • Define – Make sure each iteration is clearly defined and don’t leave any element out. Make sure the stakeholder or client is present.
    • Communicate – Individuals, teams, clients, and managers must be allowed to communicate freely and honestly about progress, concerns or questions.
    • Set Deadlines – Each iteration should have a deadline and that set deadline means the task is complete. Make sure teams understand that this principle of Agile means they are expected to have a product or outcome that is not “in development" but is ready for the client.
    • In-House Sprint Reviews – These short meetings can be helpful and should include everyone working on the project, but not the client--only client input.
    • Use a Network Diagram – A network or precedence diagram should identify iterations and the order in which they should be completed. Keep the diagram visible at all times.
    • Be Consistent – Agile project management is a determined process for completing projects. Principle #7, along with every other stage of the process, needs to be consistent, constant, and adhered to.
    • Throw Out the Weak – Some managers may want to work with a weak link whether it be team or an individual, but if the weak link isn’t getting it, throw it out. While this may seem harsh, it’s actually detrimental to being Agile.
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    Read More About It

    For more information on setting up sprint iterations, sprint reviews, and the importance of staying on track with Agile principle #7, read some of these useful articles found right here on Bright Hub PM:

    All of these informative agile articles are from the author Rupen Sharma, PMP.

    1. Conducting a Project Network Diagram
    2. Use Agile Scrum Team Practices in an Agile Project
    3. Iteration Retrospective – A Collaborative Performance Improvement Tool
    4. The 30-Day Sprint
    5. SCRUM Agile Development Project Planning Considerations - Length of an Agile Iteration