Getting your stakeholders involved in agile processes

We recently launched the Your Money Advice blog, a companion website to the main Money Advice Service site with the aim to present content in a more conversational and accessible way.

A notable difference with this project was that the key stakeholders attended the daily stand-ups, and there were some distinct benefits as a result.

It allowed them to get to know the whole team, not just the product manager, and it allowed the whole team to get to know and understand the stakeholder’s requirements, motivations, and needs.

It gave them the updates they would have inevitably asked for – without having to ask for them. By witnessing the movement of cards across the wall, and hearing daily successes, it helped remove uncertainty and build confidence.

Similarly, it also allowed them to see how the team handled impediments. They could see ownership, actions, and progress. This helped to build trust and resulted in a greater understanding of the agile team dynamic.

It was a huge time-saver. It enabled people to ask questions when the right people were on hand to answer them. It also mitigated any potential messenger effect, a risk if one person is acting as go-between, particularly with more technical issues.

Another benefit was with the ongoing prioritisation of stories, which happened quickly and easily after stand-up on an ad hoc basis, with no need for meeting rooms or calendar invites. Again, this proved to be another great time-saver.

This resulted in building strong, open lines of communication, closing the feedback loop, and breaking down barriers (whether real or imagined!). As an added bonus, when we were down a couple of team members due to holiday there was no undue stress and worry for the stakeholders, as they were already comfortable and confident with the way the team was working.

As the project was a short one, we didn’t have retrospectives at the end of the each 1-week sprint, opting for an end of project retro to share our thoughts on how it went, and to identify any lessons to carry forward. Having the stakeholders present at this allowed us to get different perspectives on the successes and issues raised. Their having been active members of the team during the project meant that there was no awkwardness or tension, and all present were able to speak freely, as should be the case at a retro.

By way of a caveat, I should say that whilst we haven’t typically excluded our stakeholders from this part of the process in the past, we’ve not actively encouraged them to attend either. Based on the successes of this project, it’s something I’d recommend anyone do. They may even bring champagne to the retro to celebrate the launch!

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