How can we stay agile during simulation modelling? Let’s take a brief look at timely review and feedback this week. As usual, let’s start with the definition given by Dave Sturrock on the Simio blog as a starting point:

Interim updates should be reviewed promptly and thoughtfully by the appropriate people so that meaningful feedback can be provided and any necessary course corrections can be immediately made.
— Dave Sturrock, Simio Blog
Staying agile requires effort.

Staying agile requires effort.

Many clients appreciate an agile approach to simulation modelling for good reasons. However, sometimes it is hard to communicate that agility requires some effort (also see last week’s post on the cost of agility). In my experience, regular, formal communication is important to stay on top of your project goal. Here is a list of items to establish a useful client channel:

Agree regular, formal meetings at the project outline:

  • This is the single most important way to keep your client engaged. Ideally, meet him at the end of each week, but not less often than every two weeks. This should not put too much of a burden on them.
  • Set the meeting time for Friday mornings or afternoons. Most schedules are available at those times and it gives everybody a good cut-off point for the previous week.

Quick meetings: During project outline, ensure these meetings are agreed to last for no more than 20 minutes.

  • This will help you achieve several things: your client does not fear the meetings for being a waste of time. You are forced to keep to the point. And you can elegantly point meeting attendees to continue a discussion outside the meeting with a friendly “it seems like this issue is of high importance to you. Let’s pick it up in a follow-on meeting”.

Fixed agenda: Introduce your very simple agenda:

  • What did you achieve last week? What issues/delays popped up? What do you plan to do next week? What questions need answering?
  • With these four points, you will have plenty to talk about but stay fixed on project progress, instead of diverting into detailed philosophical discussions on side areas
  • You also indicate to the client that you do not want to waste their time but inform and progress together with them.

One useful tool I regularly apply in such meetings is a simple Google spreadsheet as below:

Sample Google spreadsheet to guide you through meetings task by task.

Each task is color-coded and has some description (why, what, where, who, when…). During the weekly meeting, I simply go through each task that was supposed to be done last week and discuss it.

Do weekly update meetings with your client. Discuss work done last week, issues and work to do next week. Keep it short.