Enterprise Agile – Where to start.

It’s easy to say you need to start from the ‘top’ and you’ll get no argument from me….but let’s leave that for another blog and for further discussion. Today let’s talk about building strong, robust, resilient teams. You know, the kind that can take a few lumps and get right back up and keep going. I do like working with teams that aren’t afraid to fail. But how do we teach that? It’s true, being agile is tough and doing agile is a bit easier…so let’s start there. In fact, let’s take a step back.

In my opinion, I feel like in the corporate world, when we roll-out an agile transformation or step in as a coach for a new team we tend to go straight to the position of ‘agile is whatever you want it to be’ and ‘go and self organise’. In my experience this isn’t always the best approach – if it works for you and your coaching style, kudos to you and don’t change – but if it’s not – let’s take a look at how the team has been brought together and what they have been told to do. It’s likely they have had little direction other than, “go be agile and if you need help we will find you a scrum master or coach to move you along”.

Now, here is where this gets good – have a look at Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model. He describes these stages in detail, and  when you understand it, you can help your new team understand it too! I’ve learnt that the more you tell people the more they can accept what is coming their way. I often tell teams a story about G.I. Joe cartoons…anyone remember these? The cartoon ran for 20mins or so and at the very end there was this 1-2 min story of some kids doing something dangerous and a Joe would come swooping in just in time to prevent an accident or some kid losing an eye. The Joe would then proceed to tell the kids why what they are doing is dangerous and what could happen – the kids all listen and take it in and reaffirm their understanding by saying “Thanks Joe, now we know” and Joe would say, “and knowing is half the battle”.

So if you want to build a resilient team, start by teaching them what to expect. It’s not easy, and they will go through the stages Tuckman lays out and move forward and backwards, but you will be there for them to teach them tips and techniques to move the process along and use the agile values and principles to put them back on course.

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