When working within an Agile context, there is an emphasis on getting work done and meeting the outcomes of the customer needs. The work is typically structured around various Agile ceremonies depending on the methodology or process a team is using. Key to these ceremonies is to keep them concise. In order to do this, often timeboxing is introduced. However, timeboxing is only as effective as the people’s abilities to keep their discussions concise. I call this technique “agile brevity”.
What is agile brevity? It is a speaking technique that is both art and skill focused on keeping one’s comments as clear, concise, and value-added within the context of the session at hand. This means that the brain must be hyper-focused on the context and purpose of the session and speaking with agile brevity within that context. It then means that the person must consider what is the most important thing of value to say that will help progress move forward. This leads to more productive and collaborative working sessions.
Consider the Daily Stand-up. It is meant to be applied at a team level (~7 people) and take no more than 15 minutes. This means that each person has approximately 2 minutes to communicate progress and impediments. Teams new to the stand-up usually takes much longer than 15 minutes to get through their progress as they don’t yet have experience of being brief. Agile brevity means that they must consider what is the highest value information to communication the progress from yesterday, the highest value information that focuses on the work today for potential collaboration, and the specifics of any impediments so others understand it enough to potentially help, all within a very timely manner.
Agile brevity also applies to Refinement and Sprint Planning ceremonies. Within the context of these ceremonies, there is typically a timebox on how long is spent on each user story. As there is less structure in refinement or planning ceremonies than a daily stand-up, the hyper-focus of crisply asking the right questions to understand the user story is even more important. The other attribute of agile brevity is determining if your question or information is of greater value than another person’s question or information. In other words, many factors should be quickly swirling in your head before you speak.
Agile brevity is a combination of art and skill keeping one’s comments or questions as clear, concise, and value-added on the topic at hand as possible. It keeps people mentally focused, keeps working sessions tight and to the point, and ensures the highest value information and questions get discussed. While its called “agile brevity”, it isn’t specific to Agile and can be used to make any ways of working more efficient, effective, and value-added. If you find your working sessions often running long, consider trying this technique.