How to Fight the Chaos Phase of Agile Adoption and Win with an Agile Coach

By: Resalin Gurka | Sep 22, 2015 |  Agile Coaching,  Agile Transformation,  Article
Keep calm change can be good - it can be better with an Agile Coach
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Why do you need an Agile Coach?

Developed by Virginia Satir, the Satir Change Model illustrates the impact a well-assimilated change has on group performance over time.

With its curved check trend, the Satir Change Model shows that the adoption of new concepts is not always smooth. Performance typically hits a point much lower than the status quo. The model shows that while change can be good, it is usually bad at first.

The five phases of the Satir model—old status quo, resistance, chaos, integration, and a higher status quo—are all commonly seen when teams adopt Agile. In the picture above, imagine Agile is the newly introduced change or foreign element. Not pictured in the diagram is the fork in the road after the initial drop in productivity. Here, teams either abandon their efforts and return to their previous status quo, or they steadily persevere and allow Agile to become a transforming idea that leads them to realize a new, improved status quo.

How can you be sure your team perseveres to find a vastly improved status quo? A player-coach. A player-coach, specifically a technical player-coach, is someone who builds and codes with the team and uses his or her knowledge of Agile to get them through rocky patches into smoother waters. Before getting to how they help, let’s explore Satir’s five phases as they pertain to Agile adoption in more detail.

  1. Old Status Quo (The way it’s always been done)

The old status quo refers to the build management process or methodology used (i.e. a waterfall model) before adopting Agile. In a science experiment, the old status quo is the constant.

Red flags that your dev team may need a change include QA issues, lack of predictability during releases, and inability to integrate feedback from customers quickly.

  1. Resistance (Why are we doing this?)

During this phase, Agile is introduced. Developers who are comfortable with the old model tend to push back.

  1. Chaos (Worse than before)

During the chaos period, your team begins letting go of the old way of doing things and begins to embrace the new. The problems we see arise during the chaos period include:

  • additional work carried over from sprint-to-sprint
  • QA crammed in at the end of sprints
  • product is not releasable at the end of each sprint

While unpleasant, the chaos period is critical. If teams do not persevere through it, they cannot successfully adopt change, Agile or otherwise. This is the point when most teams need help.

This is where a technical player-coach is key. At this phase, he or she knows your team well and really takes on the role of a teacher and a guide, helping your team manage the choppy waters of chaos.

  1. Integration (Now we’re talking)

This is when your team starts to get on board with the new method. This is also when the coach helps the team solve problems and shows them how to really implement Agile, and inevitably, productivity picks up.

  1. Higher Status Quo (Easy street)

A higher status quo is reached once the team embraces Agile and fully integrates the practice in their day-to-day behaviors.


Technical Player-coach Game Plan

A technical player-coach knows your team and has their trust. They can analyze issues your team experiences during the chaos phase and can draw on a wealth of knowledge to provide solutions. An Agile coach may teach a development team how to:

  • estimate stories with story points
  • create better tests
  • break work down for stories in a sprint
  • become more predictable
  • increase quality
  • reduce delivery times
  • deliver increased value

Technical player-coaches mitigate the negative effects of resistance and lead a team out of the chaos phase. For more information on the Agile adoption process and how a technical player-coach can help you reach a better status quo faster, check out this video by David Hawks, CST, CSC, and Chief Agilist of Agile Velocity.

You can also learn more about our approach to building lasting business agility, you can check out our Transformation Services page.

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