Is Your Team’s Agile Experience Held Back by Those Who Mean Well?

By: Michael Krawczyk, Senior Consultant

Your team has transitioned to agile and with it comes a slew of changes each team must internalize and ultimately accept. Change is the operative word – it isn’t easy; there are entire professional disciplines devoted to it! This change takes many forms, but one of the hardest to overcome is ‘change in name only.’

This occurs when team members, who mean to be productive and professionally helpful, step outside the agile framework to solve a near term dilemma.

These side steps often take the form of:

• Utilizing email or instant messaging to document a decision that affects one or more stories versus the tracking tools already in place for this (e.g., Rally),

• Holding one-off sessions outside of daily stand-ups to ‘power through’ a decision as to the direction of a given set of stories or indeed an entire Feature, without involving the development team,

• Stepping in during the daily stand-up to ‘seize the moment’ where development resources are in attendance to discuss story-specific challenges, breaking the theme and succinct purpose of the stand-up,

• Stepping into a conversation during the daily stand-up to offer clarifying remarks versus allowing the speaker to fully flesh out their thoughts,

• Using one-off spreadsheets to track work activity or report the status of defect work, creating additional work for the audience members to locate and for the author to keep it up-to-date; all redundant to the reporting that is almost certainly a built-in capability within the organization’s agile application.

What can be done to channel these ‘helpful’ moments?

• Teams should ‘rally’ around the agile application visually during all stand-ups and sprint sessions, respecting the sessions by not merely calling in but virtually attending as well,

• Team members who are ‘presenting’ an issue or suggesting a course of action should do so while they or another team member presents the story or stories involved,

• Team members should give a courtesy to each speaker allowing them to present their thoughts freely and without interruption,

• Scrum Masters and Product Owners should lead by example, preparing their presentations using the team’s agile application, vocally discouraging one-off sessions that do not contain a proper representation of team members as well as alerting team members to reduce/resist the introduction of ‘clarifying’ spreadsheets wherever possible.

This can prove difficult when it is the organization’s leadership and supervisors who are providing the ‘help’ using outmoded, pre-agile practices. Pressure placed on the agile team, wherein the team must show courage to redirect their management’s efforts toward an agile prescribed solution. It is during these times that Scrum Masters and Product Owners must exercise their empowerment by educating those leaders when necessary.

The productive step organizations can take to re-focus work team members whose intentions are true but whose actions unwittingly place a drag on the team’s velocity is to bring in resources who have lived the agile experience and have success in steering teams onto the happy path of ‘agile-land.’ Like coaches on the field, external agile resources dedicated to leading teams on a path to success can be utilized to ‘stay the course’ and help the team realize the many wins that come from a collaborative effort.

If your organization is considering moving to an agile environment or has recently moved to agile and the path is a bumpy one, NEOS can help. We have experienced professionals who have years of industry knowledge, coupled with hands-on experience tackling the most challenging agile workstreams. Contact us today to learn more.

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