The Agile Series

The Power Of Planning

A guide to implementing Sprints

In our previous posts in this series, we’ve outlined the case for bringing an Agile mindset to construction and also covered 6 key principles of Agile here and here and how they can be applied to construction. The final 4 posts in this series focus on a set of battle-tested “rituals” (aka – regularly scheduled recurring meetings) that Agile teams have been implementing for years to deliver better project outcomes.

25 million: that’s how many meetings will take place today in the U.S. alone.

Whether it’s building budgets, setting timelines or syncing up on next steps, we all know how important it is for teams to get together in order to better collaborate. And yet, according to recent research, unproductive meetings waste $37 billion worth of unnecessary time.

We need to build better ways to bring our teams together.

In an industry with roots reaching back to the Stone Ages, some things have, quite simply, stood the test of time. For example, we know that we can’t start a project without a pre-construction meeting. And, if you don’t schedule on site meetings, you can’t successfully align on expectations.

But how often should you bring your teams together in the day to day of an ongoing project? And, what’s the ideal balance to keep things moving as productively as possible?

In a previous post, we outlined the benefit of working in Sprints to help teams break down large projects into smaller, more manageable units of work. However, to run an effective Sprint, you need to start with effective planning. In Agile, Sprint Planning is a standard ritual to ensure Sprints are scoped well and teams are setup for success.

Sprint Planning Overview

Most construction teams are familiar with the idea of weekly or monthly progress meetings, where your team will receive progress reports and photos, discuss upcoming issues and plan ahead based on factors like weather, design, budget and project requirements. If you’ve ever felt that these meetings could be more efficient, Sprint Planning may be for you.

Sprint Planning is a way to create short, focused periods of productivity within your overall work plan. For instance, you may choose to focus exclusively on all the work that needs to be done in the next week in order to finish a bathroom, or a flooring job.

Here’s how to run an effective Sprint Planning meeting:

  • Appoint a single person – usually a project manager, superintendent, or foreman – as the Sprint leader.
  • Have the Sprint leader outline the broad goals and timeframe for the sprint
  • Bring everyone working on the project together for a Sprint Planning session
  • At the session, let everyone weigh in on the plan and confirm it’s doable from their perspective.
  • Have everyone on the team confirm their individual needs to deliver on their job.
  • Have the Sprint leader lead the group in planning out all the work needed to achieve the goal in the set time, taking into account dependencies within the team and externally. Make sure everyone involved has agreed that it is possible, and knows their role in getting it done.
  • Set up the times/dates for team check ins to make sure everything is running on schedule. Input those milestones into the calendar during the sprint so you don’t forget to check in.

A well organized Sprint Planning session will result in shared goals with enough flexibility and structure for everyone involved to feel comfortable with how, and when, they need to contribute.

With good planning habits in place, read on to learn about to stick to the plan by staying in sync.