Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Agile is about Courage and Discipline...

Agile transitions are not easy. Most people focus on changing the process, but underestimate the other things that need to change also. The key moment in an agile transition is when you realize that people, their interactions, and their attitudes are more of an influence on success vs. failure than the process itself.

I have run across many people that hit this transition but run into a new problem. They know what needs to be done and have great ideas for improvement, but don't have the courage to speak their minds. Even worse, a group agrees on an improvement but doesn't have the discipline to follow through and gain from it. Nothing is more demotivating than having knowledge and not applying it, or continuing to feel pain when there is a proposed solution.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about. The first statement is the current team state... the paired response is the potential state of the team if everyone employed a little courage and discipline.

Everyone comes to meetings two minutes late because "meetings always start late"

All of our time is valuable, we need to respect everyone by being on time. Not doing this hurts our peers and the company's productivity. We will start meetings when they are scheduled regardless of if everyone is present.

Retrospectives create focus on the negative and if we can't fix the problems raised, then it demoralizes the group. It is too risky to have them.

Retrospectives are an opportunity for improvement. These conversations are steered towards valuable conversation. It is on the manager AND the team to invoke gradual improvement. They are too important to NOT have them.

That person typically blocks me or slows me down, I'll avoid them until I can't.

They must be affected by this, which is why they are invested and speaking up. How do I work with them towards a mutual outcome?

This process is painful, but it is what we always have done.

We have changed and grown, we need to adapt the process to our new situation. Call the team's attention to it. We might be able to streamline the process.

We have too much to get done in a reasonable time. Instead of worrying about it, we will just let our manager tell us what to do next.

We accept and reject commitments based on what we can do. We will push back as needed because we want to focus on the most important work with realistic deadlines so that we are motivated. We will speak up if this isn't happening. We will hold ourselves accountable to our commitments.

We don't have time for that, we have too much to do right now.

We already decided that is important… we have to make time to pursue it, or it will never happen because we always have too much to do. The long term gains are more important than the immediate loss.

More could be listed, but you get the idea. Think about your team. Where aren't you employing the courage and discipline required to help improve your team's future?