Agile Transformations Pitfalls #8: Focusing Only On The Team

By: David Hawks | Jan 11, 2016 |  Agile Transformation,  Article,  Leadership

Avoid agile pitfalls like this fork in the road and take the right pathAnd…we’re back to our regularly scheduled program. Before the holiday break, we discussed Agile Pitfall #7, Not Improving Technical Practices. Time for number eight, solely focusing on optimizing at a team level instead of optimizing across the whole organization.

How leadership deals with issues raised by the eighth pitfall could mean the start of a great era in the organization….or a failed transformation.

It’s common for leadership to believe that as long as the team is implementing Scrum and all of its trappings, the transformation is going smoothly. In the beginning, that may be the case. However, as the team matures with agile practices, they will face roadblocks they cannot remove on their own. Perhaps it’s a new testing environment or another test engineer–whatever it is, teams will need to escalate these issues to management.

Here, leaders encounter a fork in the road. How they respond to their team can make or break an Agile transformation.

While the team is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of Agile, it’s the organization’s responsibility to support the endeavor. It doesn’t say much for the leadership team if they ask the team to adopt Agile but doesn’t do anything to remove impediments or ensure success.

Did they really want the team to BE Agile or just SAY that they are? What effects will these actions (or lack of) have on trust between the team and leadership? Leaders need to change their questions from, “How productive is the team?”, to “What are you learning?” and “How can I support you?”

According to a survey by Interaction Associates on workplace trust, employees believe that a high level of trust in leadership is necessary for them to be effective at their jobs. Of the five ways leadership can build trust according to employees surveyed, “Set me up for success with learning and resources” was number three. Other ways include:

  • Soliciting input from the team especially if they will be affected
  • Providing background information when possible
  • Admitting mistakes
  • Not punishing people for raising issues

As issues are raised and roadblocks identified, it’s imperative to have a system for handling them, particularly with new transformations. With Agile, the management team is freed up to work on cross-team, organizational concerns since they are no longer in the day-to-day. One solution is to have a team of managers who help solve problems.

Another solution is to create a Transformation Team with an executive team member championing the transformation. The Transformation Team consists of cross-functional representatives who are excited and passionate about the new direction. Having the management team or the transformation team (having both is better), will help to optimize the whole value stream and shorten time to market.

Check out the final installment of the series, Pitfalls #9 and #10. Catch up on the series by reading pitfalls 1 – 7 listed below.

For more on our approach to building lasting business agility, you can check out our Transformation Services page.

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