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Agile at the Dog Park

Can a bunch of semi-literate people doing labour intensive work follow Agile?

This was the question in my mind when I set about opening my Dog Park. Being an Agile proponent in my first role as a Transformation Consultant, I was eager to test its universal concepts – as the goal remained the same – people loving their work and bringing the best of themselves for it resulting in business growth, happy customers and happy employees.

My then 6-member staff and I, started with 2 golden rules against which we will take decisions and make choices

– Always be transparent to the Dog Parents
– Safety First. Safety of the Dog guests, Team members, property – in this order of priority

Second, work agreements

– All of us are decision-makers. We have our own primary expertise but still bounce it off each other
– We are allowed to make mistakes and learn
– Respectful communication
– We are a startup – so need to be ready to handle customer experience, as well as scoop the poop – everyone willing to do everything

This was new to everyone. The team was used to taking orders and following them, getting reprimanded if they don’t – and never being accountable for something. It was challenging to shift their mindset and make them own the Park and its running.

Every day of the week has its own peculiarity – this helped us decide the iteration duration as 1 week. Tuesday to Monday, Monday, the Park being closed, was chosen as the day of reflection – when we look at the past week and create improvement plans for subsequent iterations.

All this time, we did slip – mainly due to team slipping back to the order-taking mode or it being convenient to follow one person. Lots of coaching and patience and education went to create the motivation and build up the reason for “why we are doing what we are doing the way we are doing”! The team also learnt to respect each other.

The learning continues!

Our biggest challenge is the ensure team culture is sticky, as new members are being added as we are growing.

This post will not be complete till I add the impressive stats – all of which I attribute to the introduction of the Agile mindset at the Park!

* Our customers – grown to a 450 family, strong community
* Staff Attrition – 4 people in 2 years of operations (Anecdotal evidence suggests staff sticks for 3-6 months only in this industry and location)
* Google Rating 4.8 (75 reviews)
* Our unique Program – The Dog School grew from 4 pets to 43 pets today (over the last 1.5 years)

However, we still have a few anti-patterns – I am wearing these hats – The Team Facilitator (Scrum Master), Coach, Product Owner and Executive Sponsor

Can you suggest how this anti-pattern can be resolved?
Would you have a story to share on how Agile is working in different setups and businesses?

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