My team was bogged down, taking longer and longer to get code through QA to production. Bugs were becoming more common, as were team disagreements. We adopted kanban and WIP, expecting that WIP limits and discussions would help us eliminate blockers and bottlenecks. But for some reason it wasn’t happening. We began to doubt the value of our new agile practices.

One day the engineering manager said to me, “Our entire team is responsible for quality and velocity. Our difficulties aren’t your fault. But you can help us fix them.”

This revelation gave me the freedom and courage to face the root of the problem: that I couldn’t keep up with all the changes and features the developers were submitting. When I shared this with the team, the conversation changed from “What’s wrong and whose fault is it?” to “How do we fix it together?” We identified that the stagnation was in our process, not our code. We came up with a solution and began rolling out the changes. Things got better, and the conversations became more comfortable and productive. We continue to improve. Now we do so by being open our problems and solving them much faster.

In this talk, I’ll tell our story in a bit more detail. I’ll demonstrate how no process, tool, or meeting can help if team members feel isolated or hold back the truth. Shared responsibility and openness are critical to an engineering team’s success.


Outline/Structure of the Lightning Talk

  1. Intro to myself and my message
  2. Describe the Agile practices my team adopted
  3. Identify problems my team was experiencing even after adopting Agile
  4. The two principles that freed us:
  1. Everyone on the team is responsible for quality
  2. It’s okay to admit challenges and ask for help
  1. The changes that these principles triggered
  2. How every team can use these principles to grow and improve

Learning Outcome

Key learning 1

WIP limits can’t expose bottlenecks and blockers unless everyone is honest and forthcoming about their challenges.

Key learning 2

Retrospectives easily become complain-and-blame sessions unless the team shares purpose and responsibility.

Key learning 3

When the entire team owns everyone’s quality and success, progress can occur.

Key learning 4

With the right guidance, complaints can turn to positive action.

Key learning 5

A safe and empowered team keeps improving.

Target Audience

Beginner session

Prerequisites for Attendees

Come with a desire to see how agile can help you

schedule Submitted 2 years ago