December 21, 2016 // By Ryan Hanisco
The promises of working in an Agile methodology are attractive to many teams, but often the first projects are frustrating and the benefits seem elusive. Developers expect less documentation, fewer impediments, and to be able to “just do my job.” Managers see the promise of faster time to market, the ability to adjust to changes in the market, and lower TCO. All of these things are possible and are the hallmarks of a high-functioning team, but getting there isn’t always as straightforward.
While there are many factors that can contribute to these misses, it is usually the team dynamics and the expectations that the team members have of each other that is the impediment. Simply showing up and working on code is for Sheep… being part of an agile team requires thought, engagement, and a willingness to trust each other. This is hard work and must be done deliberately.
One of the most attractive, and most difficult, aspects of agile is working in a self-organizing team. It is easy to see why teams want this:
- We can collaborate directly with the Product Owners to define, estimate, and prioritize
- We can validate the estimates on work as we accept it
- We are in control of our Sprint Commits
- Team members are peers and servant leadership is practiced
The problem is that all these benefits come with responsibilities that teams rarely talk about or maybe don’t want to.
- Conflicts have to be managed and negotiated as a team
- Team members not making their commits are accountable to the team
- Stand ups are not a passive activity where you report, it is accountability and collaboration time
- Everyone must act as a leader and be fully engaged
Expecting the benefits without taking responsibility for the group and the part you play in that team is always a recipe for disaster. Simply going with the flow and expecting a Scrum Master to manage everything weakens the team and the whole value proposition of Agile.
This is something that should be continuously watched and discussed in the team. When things are going great, it is easy to become a bit more complacent and not focus on the accountability that each member has to the group. Building trust, having hard conversations, deliberately reinforcing good team behaviors will keep everyone engaged and working smoothly.
Don’t be an agile sheep!