How I applied Agile principles to all areas of my startup

How I applied Agile principles to all areas of my startup 250 167 Emma Obanye

Agile principles were created as a solution to all the challenges that traditional teams had. Initially, they focused on software development, later evolving into overall team managing methodologies.

This shift towards agile principles signifies a significant shift in attitudes, with many teams all over the world adopting them for their teams.

I applied agile principles to my startup and felt the benefits almost immediately. I wanted to share this, so, other teams might be encouraged to emulate or use my own ideas.

What are the agile principles?

There are 12 agile principles. These are:

1.Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of useful software

2.Welcome changing requirements, even late in development

3. Frequently delivered software

4. Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers

5. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted

6. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication

7.Collocation and pair programming

8.Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace

9.Excellence through reflection

10.Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done

11.Self-organizing teams

12.Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

All of these were designed to increase the success of your projects, making sure productivity remains high and that there are no interruptions to the flow of development. So, how did I apply these agile principles to all areas of my startup?

The ones that stand out

All of the 12 agile principles support project management. However, principles 2, 8 and 10 are probably the easiest ones, to begin with. Welcoming changing requirements, sustainable development, and simplicity. These were the three points that I started with.

Changing requirements in a startup are probably the most common factor. The problem is, most teams struggle to adapt to them, and so find themselves stuck. Unable to move forward. This was one of the first steps that I made to turn my team into an agile one. This also covers principle 12

Sustainable development, I feel, goes hand-in-hand with this. Growth should come natural, and an ability to maintain a constant pace is something that your team should strive towards. No off-days, and no super busy days when you can avoid them. Just a continuous flow of progress.

Now, the art of maximising the amount of work not done has always been a confusing point in Agile. In my start-up I’ve translated it to, everything can be improved. Nothing is ever not-finished, which means that minimise the minimise the output and maximise the outcome. We shouldn’t be striving for a finish line, just goals to be made, and making a difference.


Number six was another of the first principles I adopted. Although, seemingly effortless, when you’re running a team it can be hard. However, I always make time every week to have a face-to-face conversation with my team. It’s really the only way to get honest answers, and authenticity in your organization.

No more checking up over emails, a meeting face-to-face, some way or another is the best way to talk to your team.

Number four is a principle that also lies in communication. Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers. Too often, we don’t communicate or cooperate with other teams, people or developers. Having regular communication with other developers really helped. I did this emailing, calling and face-to-face interviews.

Communication is significant in agile teams, and it allows us to make informed decisions, and be clear on how happy everybody is in the group.

Principle number one: Customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of useful software, also revolves around communication. You must always be ready to check up on your customers and make sure that they are super happy with everything you’re providing them. After all, you have to make sure your customers are satisfied – they are always right.

Communication, in an agile way, shouldn’t be long, critical meetings. It should be useful encounters, where both parties exit feeling positive and refreshed.

Excellence through reflection

In my startup, this basically meant that everybody had to reflect on their work, and see how they can improve. Regular check-ins, and self-analysis was the best way that I achieved this. Rather than through lengthy board meetings.

Again, incorporating other principles, this also meant that we would be focusing on velocity and capacity, rather than the time it took to complete.

Self-organising teams.

This point is absolutely something that agile beautifully masters. My startup embraced everything that came with this amazingly.

Too often, as team managers, we micromanage. Basically, we double check everything our employees are doing, make sure every idea is passed through multiple people, and it just makes the team feel less motivated. Micromanagement is never good, and agile doesn’t go hand-in-hand with this.

I created a working Trello board of projects and tasks, creating a backlog of jobs and prioritising others. This creates the perfect organising tool, which allows teams to just get on with it.

Frequently delivered software

I’ve spoken to many other agile teams who believe this is crucial to agile. No surprise as to why. Without regularly producing software that matters, none of the other agile principles will really matter.

My team uses the other principles, especially the Trello board, to ensure that they are regularly pushing for a release schedule. This helps work against the “never done” part of agile.

Trust in your team

With principle five, it came super easy. I trust my team, and I know their individual strengths and skills. I would never try to diminish this from them, or make them work in a role that doesn’t wholly suit them.

Point five – Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted. I did precisely this, and continue to do this. I listen to my team, and find ways that they work their very best. There’s no one size fits all in a team.

Co-location and pair programming

Last, but by no means least is point number seven. It’s basically the idea that two programmers will work together at one workstation. One will be the driver, and the other is the navigator/reviewer. Both are crucial roles, and this method works perfectly together.

The two roles will switch their roles frequently.

I found all these principles easy to apply to my own startup. First and foremost, because they make complete sense. Secondly, because they are, in my opinion, the best way to manage a team.

A team that feels free, inspired and successful, will continue to produce some of the best work, and that’s always the goal.

How did you apply your agile principles to your business? I would love to share (and perhaps copy) some of your ideas.

9 Things That Won’t Happen To A High-Performing Team

9 Things That Won’t Happen To A High-Performing Team 480 202 Irene Frances

We often hear about high performing teams, and how to achieve them. What we don’t hear as much is what happens when you don’t have a high performing team.

I’ve decided to come up with a list of things that may just happen, if your team isn’t achieving as much as it could be, addressing these points might only improve the overall performance of your team.

1.Your team won’t have poor communication

Communication is absolutely crucial for any team, regardless of what it is you’re trying to achieve. You need to be not only talking about your progress but also any issues you might be having.

In a team that isn’t performing well, the communication will be poor. There will be a kind of hush-hush culture in the room, where nobody talks about their achievements or their struggles.

This might not seem like a severe problem, especially if work is being done, but it leads to drastic problems and a hindrance of progress.

If you feel like your team is lacking communication, perhaps walk towards fixing this. Activities can help a bunch with this.

2. Your team won’t have micromanagement

You might genuinely believe that close management helps your team, but you could be wrong. If everybody needs approval from somebody to pass the smallest of tasks, motivation can run low, and new ideas will be cut short.

Make sure there’s freedom and manage your team more broadly. I’ve been in situations where every little thing I did was micromanaged and assessed, and it had adverse effects on my morale and overall work.

My advice would be to allow people to have their own time and their own goals. Don’t set them for other people, manage them in a way that directs them rather than controls them.

3. Your team won’t criticise without praise

Most teams have a coordinated system or progress tracker of some kind. This works super well for groups, as it highlights what’s going well and what can improve.

However, if you only focus on the areas of improvements or the mistakes, failing to notice the accomplishments, it can really damage productivity.

The mindset of “well, my hard work never gets noticed so why should I do it?” kicks in, and your team ends up only doing the bare minimum.

Make sure to praise your team, and bring attention to successes.

4. Your team won’t have unreasonable expectations

High performing teams have reasonable expectations – goals which can be achieved, milestones that can be reached. Teams with unreasonable expectations, for example, a goal that has purposely been set too high, will actually have adverse effects.

Is there any real point in striving towards a goal that isn’t obtainable? That’s exactly how your team will feel.

A high-performing team will set realistic, reasonable goals that push everyone forward, without making them lose faith or risk burnout.

5. Your team’s work won’t be subpar

This is arguably the most critical thing, high performing teams will consistently produce work that is above the standard.

Teams that aren’t motivated or enthusiastic will only produce the bare minimum. This perhaps highlights the absolute importance of ensuring a high performing team.

It goes hand in hand – a high performing team produces work of a higher standard.

6. Your team won’t be stubborn

Let me paint an example for you; a stubborn team won’t be open to new ideas or perform new tasks. They will stay stuck to their usual work, with a stubborn refusal of new jobs to complete.

Now, a high-performing team often has members that aren’t afraid to say ‘yes.’ They will jump at new opportunities and try their hand at new tasks. Sure, it might not work out, or it might not be their strength, but at least they tried.

Don’t get confused between stubbornness and assertiveness. Stubborn refers to somebody stuck in their ways which often hinders progress or forward movement. Assertiveness is somebody who’s bold, confident and self-assured which is excellent for a team. A refusal to do something is not the same as a strong-willed decision made by somebody.

7. Your team won’t be interested in learning

This brings us nicely onto our next point – an interest in education. A high performing team has members that are interested in moving out of their comfort zone.

This could be on any aspect, even something small like admin work, or becoming the lead for a next big project. In a team like this, everybody is moving forward, grabbing new opportunities and working towards new heights.

On the contrary, a low-performing team won’t be willing or interested in learning new skills. They will finish the work they were supposed to do, and call it a day.

8. Your team won’t be focused on hitting goals

They just won’t be that interested in hitting new goals or achievements. They’ll almost adopt that “just keep swimming” mantra that Dory has mastered ever so perfectly. Though, this might be a great way to live life and not stress, it’s not so great for a team that wants to reach new heights.

9. Your team won’t recognise individual strengths

Too often a team will get tied down with job labels. Yes, somebody might be the administrator, but they might possess amazing digital marketing skills. The accountant might have great salesman skills? A high-performing team will recognise individual strengths and talents, and act upon them.

This also applies the other way around. If you can see that a team member struggles with a specific task, you shouldn’t force them to keep on doing it, that will make them lose morale.

Well, these are all the issues that a high performing team won’t deal with. I hope this has been insightful and given you ideas on how to transform your team.

6 Of London’s Best Agile Meetups and Why You Need to Attend Them

6 Of London’s Best Agile Meetups and Why You Need to Attend Them 242 225 Irene Frances

If you’re a software developer based in the bustling heart of London, the chances are you’re already well aware of the Agile methodologies are and how they influence your everyday professional life. However, using them individually or as part of a small team can be hard work, especially once bad habits or misunderstandings start to creep into the process.

This is precisely why Agile meetups exist.

Based on the Agile Manifesto written back in 2001, implementing the Agile processes has never been easier for businesses and teams. Now, thanks to the introduction of meetups, you have the unique and exclusive opportunities to make the most of this process.

Of course, there’s the chance to collaborate, socialize, improve your skills, share your knowledge, make new friends, and generally improve all aspects of how you use Agile. Today, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about the London Agile meetup scene, as well as detailing all the events you need to know.

What are the Benefits of Attending an Agile Meetup?

Continuing from what we spoke about above, there are plenty of benefits to attending an Agile meetup that can not only add a social aspect to your career but also helps you improve your professional journey dramatically.

Let’s take a look at some of these benefits in detail;


Sometimes it can be hard to find people who are as passionate as you are about your career choices, especially when software developing because it can be quite a niche industry. However, attending an Agile meetup means you get to meet plenty of like-minded individuals and groups of people.

Of course, you never know what professional opportunities can come from meetups like this. After all, much of life is not what you know, but who you know. It’s very common for Agile meetup individuals to meet up in a more casual setting, sometimes becoming friends for life!

Improved Education

When it comes to Agile, there’s always room for improvements. However, when you’re working by yourself or within a small team, sometimes you may find it difficult to find the answer to a problem, and, like most things in life, the information circulating in a small circle can become very restrictive.

Through attendance of a meetup, you can open yourself up to more opportunities to learn new things, new skills, and new approaches and perspectives that come together to help you make the most of Agile.

Exclusive Experiences

Due to the nature of Agile meetups, there comes the opportunity for you to enjoy and engage in a selection of activities organised by the meetup to help broaden the range of Agile experiences you have access too.

These could come in a variety of different formats, from inviting speakers who are leading the Agile and software development industry to partake in workshops and sometimes even enjoying exclusive course access.

6 Best Agile Meetups in London

As you can see, if you’re involved in any part of the software development industry and you’re implementing Agile into your workflow, there are a ton of benefits you can get from attending the meetups.

However, the question remains; which are the best Agile meetups to go to? Below, we’re going to explore the six London-based meetups you need to know about!!

#1 – Agile for Agencies (London)

Founded back in 2014, Agile for Agencies is one of the longest standing Agile meetups in the city, and with over 831 members, it’s one that grows every year. With 19 successful meetings under their belt, Agile for Agencies covers everything.

Regardless of what part of the software development industry you’re in, whether that includes the SCRUM processes or project management areas, this is the meetup for you. The meetups typically run on a specific topic for each event and include workshops, courses, and speakers, all created to help you make the most of the Agile Manifesto.

#2 – The Agile Roundabout

TAR is a more recent take on Agile meetups, and while it was only founded back in 2016, it has amassed well over 7,500+ members in London alone and has hosted over 35 successful events, making it the most popular Agile meetup in the city.

During the meetups, everything is covered from all aspects of the Agile Manifesto, but there does seem to be a focus on making sure everybody has access to the best practices while helping people connect and socialise.

#3 – Adventures with Agile

Adventures with Agile is a prevalent Agile community (home to over 3,500+ people) but is most famous as the London branch of this worldwide Agile community. More suited for experienced Agile groups, the sessions here vary between speakers and workshops, but on an advanced, and usually a specialist, level.

Averaging around 100 people per meetup, yet still attracting some of the most influential people in the Agile community and world, attending one of these events is an adventure that’s sure to stick with you.

#4 – Agile in Covent Garden

If you’re looking for a way to make the Agile Manifesto your own and implement it in your way where you can make the most of it, but you’re not sure how; Agile in Covent Garden could the ideal meetup to help you materialize your goals and ambitions.

AiCG aims to deliver four key aspects of Agile, including an emphasis on building a supportive and collaborative Agile community, helping people and companies develop their Agile process to the best of their abilities, allowing you access to exclusive events like speakers and workshops, and delivers unique coaching sessions.

Founded back in 2014 and accommodating over 1,500+ members throughout 33 meetups, this is one of the largest and most diverse Agile meetup groups you’ll find in London.

#5 – Agile Leadership Works!

Tackling and educating on all areas of Agile, from personal development to project management, and even specifics like communication and Kanban, Agile Leadership Works! is exactly what the title suggests.

These particular meetups aim to gather industry leaders and speakers from around the world, uniting them to give you a unique insight into the Agile world while inspiring and educating you with everything you need to know to get the best out of the practice yourself.

If you’re a leader of an Agile team, this meetup should be near the top of your list!

#6 – London Agile Discussion Group

Last, but certainly not least, we have LADG, the oldest Agile meetup in London having been founded back in 2012. LADG is renowned for being one of the most proactive meetup groups boasting 130+ events over the last six years and having connected over 2,400+ members.

Each session hosted by LADG is crafted into a bespoke lesson or workshop that allows you to entirely focus on a specific aspect of Agile, regardless of what skill or experience level you are. Of course, there’s also a dedicated social side to help you connect with other like-minded professionals.

Scrum Masters Now Have One Place To Find Loads Of New Retrospective Formats

Scrum Masters Now Have One Place To Find Loads Of New Retrospective Formats 480 276 Irene Frances

Over 40 unique and powerful retrospective formats beautifully curated for you.

Search, browse, preview, pick and then implement a new retrospective format, in seconds. Welcome to Mindful Team’s just-launched Retrospective Format Marketplace.

Over the last few months, Mindful Team has been collecting, detailing and categorising over 40 of the most popular retrospective formats from (and for) the scrum master and team leader community.

Whether you’re a scrum master, team leader, agile coach or small business owner, our marketplace is the place to discover a new format, or add your own.

Visit the Retrospective Format Marketplace.

Why did we launch the Format Marketplace? When we began working on it, the launch of our Format Marketplace had three aims:

  1. Share our knowledge

Effective retrospectives need great formats. Through our work on Mindful Team, The Retrospective Game, and helping a number of clients directly, the team at Mindful (that’s me, and Emma [LinkedIn link]) have created lots of different formats to work for different company or product stages. We wanted a way to standardise and share these formats with the scrum master community.

  1. Create a community

We wanted to create a space for the whole community to discover new formats that can help improve their retrospectives, but we also wanted this to be a space which the community can contribute to. Whether that’s reviewing, rating, discussing, sharing or submitting a retrospective, we wanted to give you the tools to do it.

  1. Help people learn about Mindful Team

And of course, we wanted people to hear about Mindful Team’s mission to make 1,000,000 teams happier. The directory allows you to start a team retrospective with any of the formats in less than 60 seconds.

What you’ll find in the marketplace

  • A collection of over 40 formats
  • The format name, outline, and creator
  • Preview the format visually
  • Save the format
  • Rate or review the format
  • Start a retrospective with the format in just 60 seconds
  • Submit your own formats

This is just the beginning. Our goal is the make this the ultimate destination for Scrum Masters and other team meeting facilitators, that leads to better meetings, better team feedback and insights, and ultimately, happier teams.

6 Signs Your Team Meetings Aren’t Working

6 Signs Your Team Meetings Aren’t Working 150 150 Irene Frances

Meetings suck.

It’s a universal truth.

You know it. I know it. Your Tesco delivery driver knows it.

They suck so much that this certified genius and passive aggressive rockstar has used his precious time to create a calculator to demonstrate how much money you and your team are wasting with unnecessary discussions.

In fact, UK office workers spend more than 10 hours each week on meetings.

Here’s 5 signs your team meetings aren’t working. And how to fix them.

The vanity meeting

This is the most common form of useless meeting and the signs are all around you. Often hosted by the team member who loves to look busy and likes everyone know how stressed they are. Long, freeform and with no firm outcomes, the vanity meeting is the one that covers decisions that could’ve been made in a one-sentence email.

How to deal with it: don’t attend. Ever. Suggest a drive-by instead – a quick huddle at someone’s desk.

The ‘didn’t we discuss this before’ meeting

No, this wasn’t in your dream last night, but this meeting really is the stuff of nightmares. The endless actions discussed but never realised. Is it a good idea that’s being missed or something we never should have agreed to? Who knows. But it needs to stop.

How to deal with it: define and record actions, review actions at the end of the meeting, delegate them to an owner, agree a follow up. Seriously, it’s not that hard.

The ‘are they on Tinder?!!?’ meeting

You’ve got the attention span of a Dory, but even you aren’t swiping on hunnies during the morning standup. The person with better weekend plans than you is holding back this critical meeting by being present physically only. They agree new processes but don’t remember them later, and their potentially-useful insights are missing from the conversation.

How to deal with it: get a facilitator to call them out, or get them a date with your best single buddy.

The ‘why am I here’ meeting

The team’s plans for the Christmas social sound amazing but the last time you socialised outside of work hours was 1996 and that’s because your mum drove you to the school disco. This is the meeting that should happen, but probably not with you attending.

How to deal with it: Walk out. Gracefully and respectfully.

The ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ meeting

As seen in extended creative meetings. The topic’s important, the right people are present and you’ve got your agenda ready. Only one thing is missing… the energy. Whether it’s too many fully-stacked fries at lunch, or midweek blues these meetings start with great intentions but ultimately die a defeated ‘will that do’ death.

How to deal with it: This one’s for the meeting facilitator: change up the format, bring sweets, or reorganise for another time.

The ‘I’m not prepared for this’ meeting

It’s like being at school again. Del’s got his monthly marketing report and Irene has three great quantitative insights to underpin her new product experiment. But you’re out here all alone. No one told you the planning was necessary and now you need to wing it. Leaving your worst work in the meeting and your chance for meaningful change in dust. Maybe next time?

How to deal with it: Be upfront. You don’t have the information to hand, but will follow up with thoughts later over email / Slack or smoke signal. Qualify future meetings with ‘what do I need to prep’. Or just read the agenda next time.