Transitioning to an Agile Company – Learnings & Key Takeaways

by Ana Nad-Stojanovic,
Agile Coach @ Runtastic

First, it was just a whisper on a coffee break, then it was “a thing engineers are doing”, then a notorious agile connoisseur came (cough cough, that was me) to Runtastic. And somehow in between doing your morning run and having after-work drinks, the whole company became agile (scream!). Even though this sounds rather smooth, it took quite some effort… which, looking back, was totally worth it. Here are our key takeaways from transitioning to an agile company.

A few people standing together in the office and discussion something

Runtastic Agile – 9 practical pieces of advice from the trenches

1. Start small: Make the change small and easy to handle and understand. Find the minimum set of agile knowledge and feed it to the feature teams (squads) gradually until they form a habit, enter a flow and build the state of happiness.

2. Continuously improve: Do regular retrospectives on your agile transformation. Learn some new tools and techniques. Do product design sprints, user story mapping, magic estimation, sprint demos with stakeholders, mobile app testing sessions and agile hours. Always find a new and better way and never stop improving.

3. Have (build) an open company culture: We embrace flexibility and constant change, which was key for the success of Runtastic Agile. Try to recognize and funnel open and innovative communication, build trust and empower ownership in squads.

4. Spread enthusiasm about the change: Involve the whole company and share the agile knowledge in a fun and understandable way. We do it by playing the agile Lego game with every department in the company. It’s fun and it works. Try it!

5. Identify agile heroes: The change itself is an emotional rollercoaster. Don’t do it alone! Find people in the company, like we did, who support you and help implement the transition. Give them fun names like Captain Agile, Scrum Pitbull, Head of Lego, Scrum Mistress. They will be your key players in the agile transformation.

6. Be extreme, be very extreme at programming: Do everything in pairs — pair programming, pair testing, pair designing. Automate everything — from builds to tests. Respect collective code ownership while continuously integrating at a sustainable pace. Only if you have this setup can you be successful at continuous delivery 😉

7. Build up people from your own hood: An agile setup needs some new roles and you don’t necessarily need to search for new people. Ask around in your company and if you did step 4 properly, you will have a long line of interested role-shifters at your door. And best of all, you will not be able to stop bragging about their successful shift.

8. Reach out to your community: Wherever you go, you will stumble upon companies that are already in the agile mindset or want to get there. Reach out to them, try to learn and share your knowledge. Organize agile meetups on your own and promote the great work you are doing. It will give you motivation and knowledge for facing even greater challenges.

9. Celebrate success: Finally, never forget this one. Nurture the soul of the squad. Whether it is going for a squad beer after a sprint retrospective or a team event (we call them YOLO events), Runtastics always know how to have a great time.

Lot of young people having fun on a boat trip

On top of that, we created the office of our dreams, so now employees can sit together with their squads while working on our awesome features.

Embrace the change

The road to Runtastic Agile has also had its challenges. Working in a health and fitness company, the hardest part was to explain that our feature teams are called “squads” and not “squats”. We focus strongly on the things we need to improve and often neglect to look back at what was already working well. If something that was giving you trouble for months suddenly got better after an action point from the retrospective, the message is clear and encourages everybody to experiment and improve more.

We still have a long list of improvements we are working on and we still are growing like crazy, so change is the only constant at Runtastic. We learned to be agile in every aspect of our working life. Some of us even decided to try it at home for raising kids (let’s see about that one).

But guess what…we just successfully released our first app built from scratch in a fully Runtastic Agile way of working. It is time for celebration — wanna join us?

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