Using change teams to adopt Agile
Ever helped a team in practicing agile only to see that after you left the team fell back into old habits? During your presence the team did good and team spirit was high. After you left many of the things you helped set up were abandoned. Why is that?
Unfortunately this happens quite often and it kept me wondering. What is it that you can do to leave a team that’s strong enough to keep doing the things they believe are right and not fallback into old habits?
Create optimization teams
The most important thing you should do is create optimization teams. Find the people in the organization that share a passion for a particular topic like e.g. Scrum mastery, agile testing, product ownership, TDD or simple design to name a few. Get those people together into teams and come up with short term and long term goals and guess what…. a backlog of work that needs to be done to achieve the goals. The ultimate goal of an optimization team is to ‘optimize the whole’ that is their project, department or company on their topic of interest.
Facilitate that these teams come together on a regular basis to work to transform the backlog into change. Use the meetings to share ideas and experiences from the projects they work on. Train, consult and motivate them to become highly skilled in their topic of interest so that they can go into their projects as evangelists and hands-on mentors of their project members or colleagues.
Help them understand the problem and the solution
One of the things that goes wrong is helping teams solve their problems without helping them understand the root cause of the problem first. In the role of a coach it is relatively easier to convince people and therefore also very tempting to jump in and convince teams to use this or that solution. If intelligent people do not fully understand why they are doing things and why it makes their life better then “why not stop doing them”.
Laying Agile foundations
While coaches are there working with the teams they take a lot of the ‘heat’ from the organization around the teams. After all the teams are changing the way they operate and this gives friction with the parts of the organization that are still working as usual. After a coach leaves, the team has to face the organization friction themselves and this is often to much to handle for them. Before you go you must satisfy the ‘pre-conditions to Agile’ to lay down the Agile foundations.
A very useful guideline for doing this is J.O.Coplien’s book Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development.