“Are your teams really ready for Agile?”
“Look around you! The industry has moved on, you cannot wait!”
“Even sports teams are winning with agile. Change now, or you are going to lose.”
These are all things I’m supposed to say to my clients. If you believe the hype, then this is how management consultants talk, with the intent to scare their client into giving them work. Thankfully, I don't have to and here’s why.
Bringing the concept of 'Scaled Agile' to the front of academic and industry debate, Rigby, Sutherland and Noble (2018) argued that it’s not always appropriate to instantly scale and force people to agile. My interpretation is we often use the wrong lens for shifting to Agile. Agile isn’t solely about losing our obsession with documentation, plans, milestones and management. It is, at its heart, a story about people, a story about you and me.
Statistics tell us that people who have routine jobs with limited autonomy and low value-add roles are less motivated. We know people want more challenging work, to be recognised and to feel they’ve contributed. We also know that Agile helps people better manage their priorities, deal with change and improves our interactions with people. So, what’s the catch? Why don’t we all just do it, all the time? Well honestly, I think we’re losing our belief in people and find it hard to trust those we work with. I don’t work with clients, managers and direct reports. I work with people who each have a story to tell. We all have a responsibility to help those we work with to reach their potential.
I follow these rules in my job and I encourage people to also follow them, so they can do amazing things while in the process practice fundamental principles of agile approaches...
RULE 1: BE CURIOUS
My kids helped me remember that the world is full of things to be learned and that dreams are a good thing. Does it matter if dreams are not guaranteed to happen? No! Spending your energy worrying, and consequently not spending energy being curious is killing our potential. This is so important because it tells us something fundamental about how we work; that when we constrain people it limits their potential. As leaders, managers and colleagues, we should be helping each other to reach our highs.
RULE 2: RELENTLESSLY PURSUE OUTCOMES
Agile teaches us to focus on outcomes and we often use this as an excuse to look at the bigger picture and ignore the smaller things. If ignored, the smaller things will bring down the overall impact of our work. Bringing your colleague a coffee out of the blue, or really listening to how their weekend was can make a big difference. Indeed, your outcome, no matter how small, is critical to the team’s outcome. Invest your time in building relationships, so that people want to work with you to achieve the desired results.
RULE 3: YOUR SUCCESS IS YOUR TEAM'S SUCCESS
It might drive us crazy when that developer is always beaming at the 9am stand-up (and when all you want to do is catch some shut-eye) but the truth is happy motivated people are infectious. Management theory has, for the last 100 years, focused on the macro picture: how do systems interplay… essentially, how managers control and exert direction. Flip over to micro theory and give it a shot! It’ll tell you that individuals are the critical component of any story and the belief and mood you bring to the office is what drives the day’s work. Be conscious of your behaviours, self-care and mindfulness. If you’re in a good place, your team will feel it and respond.
Now I’m not promising an instant agile transformation with these rules, but you will get a more equipped ‘you’, who is also up for the move to Agile. Try it - what have you got to lose?
For more information about Capco's approach to Agile, please contact Robert Ord.