TEST AND LEARN WITHIN AGILE TEAMS
“The “test and learn” approach is embedded in the very heart of Agile ways of working” says Slawek Koziol from our Polish team. For this article Slawek has kindly offered to talk us through TEST AND LEARN in AGILE in more depth.
Showcasing the result of team’s work at the end of every sprint serves that exact purpose. A proper showcase is an opportunity “test” the result of work with key stakeholders, invite and discuss feedback to “learn”. This is the time and place to not only discuss the particular result of the sprint work but also to look into recent market developments and customer trends, moves of key competitors as well as to discuss any customer feedback available, e.g. usage statistics or qualitative feedback on the functionalities developed and released so far.
The objective here is to make sure all the relevant information is taken into account to improve and maximize the value of work.
However, the agile “test and learn” approach is more than that.
It involves a mind-set shift, where continuous learning is embedded in everyday actions and seen as a critical enabler of both delivering a better product and becoming more efficient in the process.
High-performing agile teams apply the “test and learn” approach to figure out the best way to deliver on their commitments.
That involves letting go of the dearly held pre-conceptions and adopting an open mind as to how things can be done. While previous experience can give certain hints on the initial directions, every hypothesis should be tested for feedback even with small groups of users.
WHICH IS TRUE?
Agile teams love feedback surveys, customer interviews, A/B tests and many other feedback tools and techniques as they sometimes take only a few minutes to prepare and can provide invaluable insights.
When facing a dilemma “Is hypothesis one or hypothesis two true?” agile teams quickly set up a test to prove or disprove either of those with real customers then use the result to adjust their approach.
Quickly disproving a given hypothesis might be seen as failure but high-performing agile teams see it as opportunity to learn.
FAIL FAST, LEARN FAST.
They fail fast in order to learn fast. The “test and learn” approach also manifests itself in switching from traditional “stage gate” project management to agile MVP-based process and thus moving away from limited number of major releases a year to multiple smaller changes implemented every other week that can be tested with customers.
It can be argued that quick iterations are risky as they shortcut the (traditional) internal organizational test cycles, but in reality, the risk is reduced to a minimum since the incremental changes are small and can either be rolled back or quickly improved in the next iteration.
Agile organizations release the Minimum Viable Products to customers with just enough functionalities to test and learn. They create “safe to fail” environments and reward learning.