Over the past 20 years, Agile development has become very popular. Agile has fundamentally changed the way we build software. In many organizations and within the Agile framework, we ensure to run Sprint, implement Scrum, and maintain the pace of development from the past. In many cases, however, we never bothered to analyze what was the overall benefit of doing all these exercises. Are we achieving our goals as set out earlier? Are our members happy doing all the exercises to achieve their goals?
Many big organizations can report that their Agile efforts have paid off in terms of speed, quality, value, and long-term growth. But not everyone, in fact, there are many of them who have failed in their efforts.
Simply put, if you are not getting the benefits of Agile, you need to understand what is holding you back from delivering the rapid, scalable solutions you planned. After working with several Agile teams and conducting a series of interviews with experts, I believe the primary factor is people’s disregard and interaction with processes and tools.
Agile Processes and Tools
Agile processes and tools provide support, but the central mechanism of the Agile approach is not Scrum or Sprint, but how the team members interact that ultimately determines success. We need to know if the team members have the ability to speak and listen, ask and answer questions, act and react, analyze and solve. Or do they censor each other and end up perpetuating themselves in isolation?
High moral support impacts performance, we receive a response with innovation as the goal, whereas without any moral boost, we can view the fear response to survival as the goal.
When team members stop asking questions, admitting mistakes, and exploring ideas, they stop being alert. As Thomas Sowell said, "Without a moral framework, there is nothing left but immediate self-indulgence by some and the path of least resistance by others, neither can sustain", if you criticize, embarrass, discourage, or bully. At that point, the team’s Agile process breaks down and may ultimately collapse.
In one of our projects, spillover was observed during a couple of Sprints in the middle of a two-week Sprint. Personally, I have observed and felt that the entire product development team was struggling and unfortunately, the team lacked the moral support of the leader. There was some communication gap that the leader failed to address and the team gradually stopped their task. In this case, each member had been extensively trained in Agile processes and tools, but these processes and tools could not save them.
Best Practices for a collaborative and successful Agile team
- Daily Scrum Meeting
Scrum meeting is a short coordination meeting conducted regularly where team members review the backlog, identify obstacles, and prioritize tasks. Although they are not meant for brainstorming, for example, if a team faces a difficult challenge, pose a question about the issue and ask the team to come to the next Scrum meeting prepared to discuss that problem. This approach gives team members more time and encourages them to engage in divergent thinking. Assure your team that you want to hear from them with all the data-supported options.
- Sprint Retrospective
This meeting is held at the end of every Sprint to review what went well and what could be improved to evaluate the quality of the team’s communication formally. Make this review a standard part of the program.
- Identify Vulnerable Behaviour
Conduct a formal discussion with your team to identify the behaviour. Team members will most likely begin by identifying common behaviors like asking questions, giving feedback, or registering different viewpoints. As a Delivery Manager, identify positive response patterns for each behavior.
If the Delivery Manager strives to model the behavior and openly acknowledge the mistakes, the team will make cumulative progress. The Delivery Manager must make it evident that the team members are responsible for holding each other accountable for performing and rewarding vulnerable behavior.
- Adopt Agile as a Traditional Implementation
After implementing Agile, many organizations started altering technical processes and tools, because traditional considerations seem to be difficult to operate. It is easier to perform Scrum, plan Sprint, and maintain Kanban Dashboard.
As a Senior Service Delivery Manager, your highest priority must be to focus on individuals and interactions. Insignificant acts of disrespect, rudeness, or indifference can push a team to withdraw and manage personal risk.
If a team is struggling in its Agile transformation, shadow it. Evaluate the process. Try to understand their needs/concerns, if members are very sentimental and temperamental you can manage this by providing moral support, team collaboration, and effective communication. This can be performed effectively without any alteration in the current Agile format or without engaging the team's further resources or expertise.