Being Agile: A team has to know its limitations
“A man’s got to know his limitations”, a quote made immortal by Clint Eastwood in the 1973 movie Magnum Force. I am not a movie buff but do like to replay classics once in a while and the inspiration to write this blog came right after watching Clint deliver his famous one-liner. While adopting Agile development practices, it’s often seen that organizations have a great deal of passion and good intentions. But unfortunately, the intent alone is not enough if the attempt involves either the adoption scope to be too large or at a pace too fast for the organization, whose culture is not ready.
For successful adoption of Agile across an organization, it’s important to start with one or two pilot teams. For the team to be successful in adopting Agile practices, it’s important to get to know its limitations. In intimately knowing and addressing team limits, a lot could be truly accomplished. Below are my tips in identifying team limitations and playing to their strength for the successful adoption of ‘Being Agile’.
- Deep philosophical understanding of Agile: In my earlier post An agilist needs more than training to succeed, I shared that getting trained in Agile does not necessarily mean that we have started thinking ‘Agile’. After training, it is important to work in your organization towards bringing in changes, including predictable delivery by taking small steps in developing an environment, which fosters a collaborative culture with a shared vision across the organization.
- Get familiar with individual team skills: Agile encourages teams to consist of self-performing & cross-functional team members. It’s important to understand the skills of each team member including front end, back end and other needed skills in the sprint (or) project. While grooming or planning, it’s essential to identify and play to the strengths of individual team members. While finalizing the team, one needs to be very clear about what the objectives are and what they need to deliver individually as a member and collectively as a team.
- Set clear goals for the team: It’s vital for each member to understand how their individual goal fits into the overall objective. For a team to be highly productive, it’s vital for them to understand what they are delivering as a team and how the deliverables are going to be measured. A team, which understands the importance of what they are delivering will always be highly productive and will adhere to much higher standards than one with no clear purpose.
- Provide team the necessary tools: Performance of any project team is only as successful as the weakest link in the team. So we need to constantly nurture the individual team members while providing the necessary tools to be productive. For instance, once we have identified the weakling, it’s necessary to plan the mitigation either by pair programming or mentoring by cross-training or guiding. Keep in mind that a happy team would automatically take care of keeping your client(s) happy so it’s important for the team to be equipped with the necessary tools.
- Build-in culture of continuous improvement: It’s essential to create a robust environment where feedback is encouraged, appreciated and taken (or) given on a standard basis. Without proper guidelines, measurements and feedback, it is very easy for the team to fall into a spiral trap of stress, demotivation and rapid disintegration. When the right culture of continuous improvement is put in place, it always guarantees a well-functioning, highly motivated and goal-driven team.
While the practitioners of Agile are still divided into teams that are highly productive ‘Being Agile’ and teams that are not. In my experience, a team is successful in adopting Agile when it understands well its limitations and plays to its strength within the known constraints while continuously striving to improve. Teams that usually fail in adopting Agile successfully or struggle in their adoption are the ones that are usually leaning towards why something will not work rather than working on finding solutions to the constraints.
Share your thoughts in the comments section on the best team management practices you employ while practicing Agile.
Previous posts you might be interested in:
- Active listening is key for a successful delivery
- Kanban & DevOps: Forming a perfect alliance
- An agilist needs more than training to succeed