Stop me if you have heard this before. An organization decides it wants to switch to Agile and leverage Scrum. Next, they bring in trainers galore and switch up toolsets to the latest, most excellent Agile tool. Finally, the leaders hire Agile Specialists and Agile Coaches to deliver training. After a few months or even years, the leadership team feels like their journey is a success, only to find that the teams are secretly unhappy and are not delivering their best work.
The leadership team cannot figure out where they went wrong. They hired the best trainers to teach everyone. They retooled their strategic goals to align more with an Agile mindset. Managers hired Agile Specialists and Coaches. Yet, team members are unhappy and feel like they are not in a better place than before.
Where did they go wrong?
For some of you, this story may be all too familiar. You may even know where I am going with this. The leadership team made a significant mistake when starting their Agile journey. They did not talk with their teams or any other part of the organization about beginning this journey. The leaders forced the journey upon the rest of the organization.
Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember being told you were going to the dentist or doctor for an appointment? Would you want to go if you did not know why you were going or the benefit of a visit? I know I would be skeptical about it and even go so far as to say I would be afraid. I may even have been angry. Even now, as an adult, I would question the trip.
These same thoughts and feelings apply to teams going on an Agile journey that they have no say in. Though subtle, this approach is of the command and control leadership style. Command and control leadership is all about making decisions from the top down. This hierarchical approach gives team members little to no say in decision-making.
Growing pains are a standard piece of an Agile journey. Many leaders think that with the popularity and success Agile has brought other organizations, their organizations will be thrilled to go down this path. Numerous team members going through such a change will know of the issues other organizations have experienced. Prepare them for that. Talk them through that as you begin. Things are going to be difficult. Those difficulties are what lead to positive growth.
Lastly, psychological safety did not start strong here. The act of forcing Agility hindered the team’s ability to speak. Their voices went unheard. Ironically, one of the tenants of Agile is individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Yet, in this scenario, the individual team members were not consulted over the decision to pursue Agility.
What can they do better?
Before bringing in the trainers and before telling the teams about the Agile journey, ask the teams if it is one they want to go on in the first place. This way, the teams can take ownership of the journey. Being at the helm and part of navigation empowers the team members.
Figure out what concerns they have. Additionally, ask them if they see any issues with how they are doing things now. Please take the next step with them rather than forcing them. Talk to them about what you hope to accomplish. Like the doctor’s visit, people want to know why they are going somewhere. Doing this is partially about convincing them to take this journey with you. Ty challenging them to persuade you are moving towards Agile is the wrong choice. Maybe the teams will surprise you.
Finally, leaders need to involve Agile advocates. Typically, some people within an organization have heard of Agile and view it positively. These people may be interested in transitioning to an Agile Specialist role or have expressed interest in learning more. The leadership team members are not the only ones who have influence. Agile advocates within an organization are the eyes and ears that interact the closest with people with whom leadership may have little interaction.
Agile journies are like visits to the doctor when you were younger. Knowing why you are going, having a voice, and being invited to participate in the decision process empower a team to begin an Agile journey.
Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon
The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.