Donesafe News

Handwritten Lists Vs. Agile Working

Success through agile working

Out with the old and in with the new!

Here are a few questions for you – answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each:

1 – Could nine women make a baby in one month?
2 – If you order 3 courses at a restaurant, would you prefer to get all your food at once, rather than receive each course separately at different times?
3 – In a relay, would a single person beat the relay team?

If you answered ‘no’ to each question, then perhaps take a few minutes to read on, because agile might just improve productivity within your business. Or maybe you already use agile, in which case high five to you – fill in the form below and let’s do business together!

What is agile working?

Agile working is a way of working in which a business empowers its people to work where, when, and how they choose, with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints. Agile working benefits include improved performance, “best in class” value, delivery, and customer service.

It uses communications and information technology to enable people to work in ways, which best suit their needs without the traditional limitations of where and when tasks must be performed. (The Agile Organisation 2013) It is based on the concept that work is an activity we do, rather than a place we go to. With the technology available to modern business, there are numerous tools to help us work in new and different ways, to meet customer needs, reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve sustainability. Agile working is a transformational tool to allow organizations to work smarter by eliminating all barriers to working efficiently.

How can agile working help?

Your working day to-do list could be as long as your arm, but in reality, do you really have the time and budget to complete everything? Everything cant is a priority and that’s a fact! The idea of being able to multi-task is the myth and as humans, we can only focus on one thing at a time, well two if you counting breathing as one. This being said we also only have a certain amount of hours in the day and a certain amount of dollars in the bank. When you compare what needs to do, the number of hours it will take to complete everything and if budgets can cover this, this is where agile working comes in.

It’s human nature to think every task on a list is crucial. But relative prioritization forces you to compare each task to all of the others to determine how important it really is. This makes it easier to identify flaws in the everything-is-crucial approach.

The principles of Agile can be applied to get more done in any industry and job, and even in your personal life. Agile working doesn’t just have to apply to those working in software. Agile is a great way to prioritize everything from large projects in the workplace, planning a big trip, or planning a wedding.

It became very clear from my first week at Donesafe that we have a great system for tasks and prioritization. We are firm believers in agile working and prioritization – the process of ranking items on a to-do list from most to least important.
There’s nothing worse than sitting in front of your laptop and having a HUGE list of tasks to complete and not knowing where to start.

Donesafe uses agile working to prioritize projects and development activities. We also ensure everyone across all roles are updated on what’s happening in the development of the product. This is showcased at a monthly meeting where we run through all-new features, mini demos, and build excitement on what’s to come.

By breaking down each of the tasks into an agile board, we are able to see who’s doing what, as well as current, completed and upcoming projects and tasks on the list. Since using agile working we have found ways of bettering our processes and we are now able to tackle bug fixes in under 24 hours. This is managed during our morning stand-ups to see who is available to monitor the bugs on that day. This was one area we were unable to manage on a daily as well as trying to find the time to look into each bug and resolve it. By choosing a team member who has fewer tasks to complete on the day makes this more successful.

A brief and basic introduction to agile

Agile is a way to manage projects. It can be used for virtually anything, but it was founded in software development. Agile breaks down larger projects into smaller tasks, that are easily managed and can be ticked off.

The main values of agile and why it became so popular is:
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

The main idea behind agile was to try and solve the biggest problem in industries and prioritize the most important without running out of budget or time for a project. The fact that there’s never enough time and budget to complete all project requirements, will always be the case.

Agile says a realistic plan requires that one of those pieces of the project is flexible. Generally, the flexible element in Agile is the scope. As a product manager, if you have 25 tasks to complete but only have the budget and time to complete 10. The aim is to select the top 10 tasks as they are most important. A rule that can be used to achieve the best outcome through agile working is to rank the tasks in order of priority, 1-10. No two tasks can have the same priority.

Intermediate agile prioritization

A criticality level represents how important a specific task is to the overall project.

There are four levels of criticality when it comes to agile working:
Critical – Critical tasks must be completed. They’re not up for debate because they’re essential.
High – High priority tasks are things that aren’t absolutely critical, but they are things you want more than anything else on the list.
Medium – Medium priority tasks are things you still want, but things you want less than the high priorities.
Low – Low priority tasks if budgets and time can stretch.

Relative prioritization and criticality levels work best when you use them together. Critical tasks are at the top of the priority list. Since they must all be completed, the rankings you assign really just represent the order you plan to complete them in. Those are followed by tasks with high criticality levels, then medium, then low.

For high, medium, and low tasks, relative priorities are very important. Imagine that at any point after the critical tasks are completed, you could run out of time or money. The first high priority task, then, is the thing you want more than anything else on the list.

Setting a project or team up with agile working can take some planning and time to get into the groove of things, but once everything’s outlined it becomes very easy. This is also perfect to ensure everyone on your team, has visibility on what you are doing and if you fall sick it’s very clear to work out what’s what.

Advanced agile prioritization

To get the most value from Agile prioritization, break every to-do item down into the smallest possible tasks. This helps because one large task may represent 10 small tasks, but those 10 small tasks may not all be equally important.

What to use?

While you can’t go wrong with a handwritten to-do list, once you’ve used an agile working method, there’s no going back.

There are many methods for automating your agile working/to-do lists which help speed up the processes. The ability to drag and drop, move things around, push dates out, and add additional tasks are all done in a matter of seconds.

We find Trello and Jira work well across each of the teams – platforms like Trello have additional features which can be utilized to make your life easier –

• Drag and drop tasks to prioritize them
• Colour code tasks to signify criticality levels
• Add due dates
• Share the list with multiple users
• Send automatic notifications when a task is assigned to a new user

Jira is typically used by the development, customer success, and project management teams.
Jira adds another level to prioritization as projects can have a complexity value, a total number of hours in order to complete that task, and a cost, if required.

Why we use it?

Here at Donesafe, we find that Trello is a way of outlining all the tasks we have and break them down by category and align each task to a specific person or group of people in order to get the task completed. To avoid feeling defeated when a task sits on your ‘doing’ list for over a week, we find its better to push this to your backlog. The reason the task hasn’t been completed could be because something else needs doing first. We find that pushing tasks to the backlog, helps by taking that added pressure off.

With Jira, we can monitor how long tasks are taking and clients also have visibility on this. As each of the tasks is completed the total number of hours is calculated against a cost and billed to the client. There are many various platforms that help you remain focused on the most important tasks and prioritize your workload.

It’s important to know how many tasks are outstanding and what needs to be completed first. Once everything is listed, you may find that by solving one high priority problem, you could buying yourself a little more time on other tasks, or it could fix another problem. Stand-ups are completed every morning by the DEV team and they work through everything on their lists for that day. This is a great way of making each individual accountable for their work and in a timely manner. This is also a great time for the team to readdress anything on their lists. Some tasks may be taking longer than expected and the timelines can be pushed out, they may find that by fixing an issue for one client it provides a solution for another. The stand-ups are a great way of ensuring everyone across workloads and each team member is vocal and communicates with one another.

The link between agile and the Donesafe system

When you are up and running in your own Donesafe environment, you can see how to break down tasks and how they can be aligned with the right people. There are many steps involved in completing an incident, investigation, or reporting, as examples. Within your safety system, you will be able to check what’s been completed, who should be completing the task(s), reminders will be sent out as prompts to get tasks/actions closed off quicker, and everything is broken down based on who should be completing it. These are all steps to ensure workers don’t feel overwhelmed and promote them to action what’s there and ready to be completed. The step by step process and easy to use the structure of our system help create a positive environment, which can manage your health and safety in the workplace and in the future help to prevent issues.

If you’re stressed or overwhelmed by a long list of things to do, take time to prioritize it using Agile techniques. It will help you focus on what’s important, avoid spending time on what’s not, and stay motivated as you mark tasks as completed. It’s the best feeling.

And as always, keep safe out there.

By Donesafe at

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