Most failed software projects have one thing in common: a lack of transparency. The project might have taken too long, gone over budget, or suffered other issues. Regardless of the particulars, members of the team probably knew of the issue before it hit the tipping point.
This is where transparency comes into play. By encouraging team members to share their progress, troubles, suggestions, and thoughts about the project with other team members and leaders, companies can prevent unpleasant surprises. Transparency helps to improve accountability, give everyone a big-picture understanding of the project, strengthen collaboration, and decrease the chance of a project-killing problem.
As one of the five Scrum values, the importance of openness and transparency is already commonly recognized. However, many companies making use of Agile and Scrum still have room for improvement in this area. Encouraging transparency throughout the software development process pays huge dividends for everyone.
Raising Issues: Encourage, Don’t Shut Down
To be transparent with product owners and stakeholders, team members must feel comfortable bringing up issues with leaders. Leaders should never discourage team members from raising issues early. If they do shut down attempts to bring up issues or retaliate against team members who make these suggestions, risks will only be discovered much later in the process. When working with third-party providers, it becomes even more difficult, but not less important.
Encouraging honesty requires the right culture. Nobody wants to deliver bad news, but they might be much more likely to do so if they know that the news will be accepted in a positive way.
Honest, open communication should be integrated into sprint planning and standups. When business leaders ask team members for their progress on projects, the team members shouldn’t have any reservations about mentioning roadblocks or setbacks. The earlier that a potential issue is communicated to the project owner, the better.
One of the strongest lessons from the Agile and Scrum methodologies is the importance of frequent, public communication. Standups might be the most famous of this type of communication, but the concept is embedded throughout the methodologies such as having a shared document repository, instant messaging, video conferencing and project boards.
Offering lots of opportunities for team members to share their status is also a great way to encourage transparency. Team members don’t feel like they’re working in a vacuum; they get a big-picture view of how their work fits into the project as a whole. Plus, leaders get a good understanding of how the project is progressing, allowing them to make decisions that alleviate issues quickly.
Without promoting transparency throughout the entire software development process, companies can face missed deadlines, rushed and hacked-together work, team burnout, and other issues. By keeping everyone on the same page through transparency deeply embedded in the Agile process, issues can be brought up and addressed early on, saving both team members and leaders time, stress, and money.
With remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, transparency and open communication are even more important than ever. Without casual conversations in the hallways and at the proverbial water cooler, companies need to provide forums for honest communication even more often.
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