The Agile Manifesto values “Individuals and Interactions” over “Process and Tools.” I suspect it was no accident that this was listed first. Lack of communication, miscommunication, or the mistaken presumption that communication has occurred, are the root cause of many problems. Yet, we still focus much discussion on the process and tools.
- When and how do you conduct a certain Scrum ceremony?
- Are you practicing pure Scrum?
- Which agile tools do you use and why?
- How do you use the tool?
- What agile metrics are you using and how?
- What best practices exist?
- And lots more concerns and questions about how to “do” process…
However, most all change transformations to “be” agile struggle with organizational culture and many organizations and teams continue to fail to reach their full potential because of issues related to “individuals and interactions.”
Teams are the heartbeat of agile development. It’s the people that produce business success. Even when the organizational culture embraces agile values, the teams must also address their individuals and healthy interactions among them to maximize value. This takes time and effort to mature. I find we mistakenly assume that since people know each other already and even “behave” nicely, they think they can skip over the team-building activities.
Simply gathering individuals together and assigning them the label of “team” does not make a team. Each team is comprised of unique personalities and thus there is no cookie-cutter best answer for every team. Each team must find its own way and navigate the uniqueness of each individual to determine the best way to handle interactions that work for their team dynamic. There should be “pacts” that everyone on the team agrees to. If there are dysfunctions (egos, prima donnas, passive aggressive behavior, apathy, poor listening skills, a presumed hierarchy, and so on), then the challenge is an order of magnitude that’s much more difficult. Each team is a unique, dynamic system, subject to changing moods and their environment.
Sadly, some agile teams never evolve beyond a collection of individuals who meet together at the prescribed Scrum ceremonies and then return to work independently with a focus on their individual tasks only. Maybe the ability to track their work has improved, but they have failed to recognize and harness the true potential that comes from working as a high-performing team. Perhaps you have seen teams who are full of energy and so you recognize the power of teams? So, why do some teams never get there? There are multiple factors that influence agile and Scrum teams.
Let’s assume that the organization’s leadership values the power of teams and has a supportive culture and vision in play. So what can be done within the team to ensure that it sets a solid foundation for growth and success?
During the team forming stage, it is important for the team members to openly discuss behaviors and expectations. There is great value in recording those discussions as a reminder to the members when they do encounter problems. But, they need to dive deeply into what each member truly believes and feels. Because what you believe and how you feel directly determines how you will behave. These team discussions must go beyond the process-mechanics agreements such as what time to meet. They need to communicate something more of an “agile team creed” or list of pacts they make with one another. Team members must be comfortable sharing their fears and concerns.
Having an agile team creed is a great starting point for deep team discussions to root out true beliefs. It captures cultural expectations and behaviors for the team which I believe lay the foundation for a great agile team. Here is my list of 15 useful pacts agile teams can make. I call it the Agile Team Creed.
Has your team had these deep conservations about what they believe? Would they agree with these items as part of their Agile Team Creed? If not, why? Perhaps, it reveals a cultural issue that needs attention.
About the AuthorMore Content by Jo Hollen