The Problem with Agile - It's not the team, it's you
IT shops are spending a tremendous amount of money on trying to fine tune their Sprint teams in an effort to improve throughput. They invest in training, certifications, coaches, contract Scrum Masters, etc.. without realizing that the team is not their root problem. It does not matter how much you tune the delivery engine in the quest for perfection, until you bring up all parts of the system, there will continue to be forces outside of the team that act as a drag on output and speed to market.
This has lead me to develop a series of talks aimed at helping people look at the issues outside of the team and how they directly impact their ability to deliver quality quickly. This presentation is the first in the series focusing on the importance of Lean-Agile leadership. Targeted at Middle and Senior Agile Leaders. It covers how the best intended actions and behaviors with the teams are actually significant anti-patterns and what effect that has. I hone in 6 specific patterns (e.g. reaction in a crises, team movements, etc..) and have a discussion around:
- What behaviors in management and the team may indicate the anti-pattern is present
- What Agile Principle is being violated by this anti-pattern
- How presence of these anti-patterns will present themselves in your Agile metrics
- Alternative more productive behaviors that allow a manager to remain engaged with the team without having a negative impact on team productivity
One of the most important messages I address is the Lean Principle of Respect for People through managements behavior around estimates. Telling teams they are taking too long or using terms like sandbagging often have long-term impacts on teams that a manager may never be able to recover from.
This presentation is intended to be thought provoking and present ideas that are in direct conflict with how we as managers have been trained and rewarded for performing in the past. I present in a lighthearted and slightly satirical manner aimed at allowing us to take a look at ourselves, our behaviors and ask questions without feeling threatened or worse, abashed for the some of the things we have been doing to date.
Outline/Structure of the Talk
A discussion on the background of what I have experienced a long that way that clearly demonstrated there was still a problem, motivating me to write this series. Although many organizations have come a long way in their transition to Agile, a lot of the problems expected to be addressed still exist and in some cases may even be worse
Any problems that restrict the flow of work will ultimately show-up in your Agile metrics. We will focus in on the Cumulative Flow Diagram understand what information can be extracted from this view so we can understand how our actions may reflect themselves in this metric. We also take a moment to reflect on the value of Agile metrics and how managers need to be careful in how they use them. Metrics are leading indicators, never an answer and so we reinforce the importance of working with the team to understand root cause issues.
Reminding ourselves of the values and principles that underpin Lean-Agile, we look at the 6 specific anti-patterns below to understand how we may be creating them, the impact to the team and what alternative behaviors we should be displaying.
- Staying Updated: Impacts of the need for constant updates form the team and how the use of standardized reporting can be counter productive.
- Tracking Progress: The counter productive nature of tracking team tasks, effort or individual team member's progress
- Facilitating Work: How unexpected work impacts the team and that direct hands-on management support rarely achieves the expected outcome
- Fine Tuning: The negative impact of shifting team members across teams to ensure that they have the skills needed to complete the next piece of work
- Acquiring Knowledge: The hidden cost of Agile training for management and how it can isolate them from the team
A summary message to all Agile Leaders on the importance of knowing how to recognize the anti-patterns, understanding the impacts they have and reflecting on how our actions support or subvert the Agile principles
As Lean-Agile Leaders, we will understand how our day-to-day interactions with the team can either be supportive or counter-productive in allowing them to thrive. We will learn to recognize the behaviors, understand how they may impact the teams and what alternate behaviors would be more effective. We will understand how to read our Agile metrics to see leading indicators of the type of impact we're having and where to turn to know if corrective action is needed or not.
Middle and Senior Agile Leaders
Prerequisites for Attendees
Attendees should be familiar with Lean-Agile Principles as well as a basic understanding of Agile at the team level.