Agile swarming

What is agile swarming and how it can be applied in agile teams and as an agile organisation Agile team tactics #agileswarming #problemsolving #agileteams

Hi everyone, I’m Belinda from Being Agile. Welcome to this session on agile swarming. I talked about agile swarming in my book, and I work with teams to apply this agile team tactic, for helping us to solve problems, resolve challenges, and helping us to maintain the flow of our team and improve our agility and productivity. So, we can think about agile swarming as either something that we might do as part of an agile team, a tactic that we use as an agile team within the team, but we can also use it in the context of a team itself as well. I’ll explain that in a little bit more detail.

Agile Teams – Swarming Tactic

What I mean by agile swarming within a team is a tactic that we might employ. We may find that within a particular Sprint of work, one of the items of work that we’ve chosen to work on has become a real challenge, it’s become a real block, it’s stuck for some reason, and the person or persons involved in delivering on that can’t get it done. There might be a lack of various things that mean that they cannot solely resolve this issue on their own and complete that task.

Now, what we don’t want to do is be a team that gets to the end of the Sprint and go, “Oh yeah, we’ve got everything done except for that one thing because, well, you know, that one person didn’t get their job done, so it’s their fault.” We’re working as a team, so what we want to do is look to swarm challenge as we’re going through our Sprint. Part of that stand-up and catch-up throughout the Sprint should be looking at how we’re working on those tasks, and if anything is getting stuck in Waiting, then that can be prioritized.

In that scenario, rather than leaving our teammate out cold and dealing with that issue on them by themselves, what we would do is look to swarm the challenge together, it might be just a couple of us from the team, or it might be the entire team that gets together to really swarm this problem. The idea of swarming in as a team on the problem and really dedicating time, energy, and focus into dealing with that challenge because indeed, it may be that if we don’t resolve that challenge, we can’t complete our own work, and we won’t be able to deliver at the end of the Sprint as we predicted.

This is about collaborating, it’s about a tactic that helps a team to work better together to make sure that we’re collectively achieving what we want to at the end of the Sprint and acknowledging that things are changing, and we don’t know everything. Sometimes we do need to work together, so it’s really building on ideas like pairing up so we’ve got that mutual understanding, somebody doing the work, somebody doing the quality checking, and sharing that workload, bouncing off each other. When we’re swarming, we’re multiplying that.

So, that’s our idea of swarming within an agile team.

Agile Swarming Squad

Also, we can have an agile swarming team. So, in this sense, what we might find is that we’re starting a new project, and as an organisation, as a team, we’ve never done this before. You know, this is something new, and so we might actually want to spin up a team that looks into that in greater depth.

Or indeed, we might, as a team or as an organisation, face a really urgent, important challenge. So, it might be that out of the blue, this thing comes and hits us, and we’re like, “We need to respond to this as fast as possible to mitigate against whatever this might cause and see what we might do.”

Again, we’ll spin up an agile team and swarm it, hone in and focus on that challenge, on that problem, to resolve it. See, this might well be a cross-functional team, so it might be from different areas in the organisation, or it might be a particular team that’s really focused on this. It might include our stakeholders and clients even. Really, it’s about getting the right people together in the room or virtual room and being able to talk about it, discuss it, and actually put this focus on it.

So, agile swarming, I think, is a really nice concept. It’s a really nice way of coming together as a team, working more collaboratively, working more collectively, having this really good way as well of being able to challenge safely, safe to ask.

So, within the team, if we’ve got this in our toolbox of tactics that we can use within the team, it can become really normal quite quickly that a member of the team will be able to say, “You know, this thing is going to be a challenge, can we swarm it”. And we might be swarming it before it even gets into the current Sprint. So, in order to get this item into a format that we can put into the current Sprint, into the next Sprint, and actually get it done, we might need to do some swarming beforehand.

We can use it in all different areas, but this real kind of essence of coming together collaboratively to understand the problem and the challenge, to understand what we’re trying to achieve, the goal, the reality of the current situation, what’s going on, establish those options, how can we solve this problem, what do we need to be able to solve these problems? Is it skills, is it resources, is it knowledge, is it experience? What is it that we need to be able to resolve this challenge, and then being able to find that way forward?

So, I really love using the GROW format alongside swarming. A team that’s been created to swarm a particular challenge or problem in the short term I often call an agile squad. This small team is formed to absolutely focus on this challenge, change on this problem, dedicate a particular amount of time to that, and come up with a solution and a way forward to help the wider organisation to progress.

So, I hope you find that useful in terms of what is agile swarming, it was a question a client asked, so I thought it would make a nice post.

If you’ve got any questions or thoughts, do give me a shout, and do please subscribe and like it if you found it useful. That’s much appreciated, so thanks very much, and I’ll see you again next time. Thanks.


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