The Best Advice for New and Struggling Agile Teams

Gil Broza is on a mission to make software development more effective, humane and responsible. He helps people pick up where Scrum left off, especially on the technical, human and thinking sides of agile. His new book "The Agile Mind-Set" helps practitioners go beyond process and adopt a true agile approach to work. He is also the author of "The Human Side of Agile", the definitive practical book on leading agile teams to greatness; host of the popular virtual trainings Individuals and Interactions and Packing List for Your Agile Journey; and co-leader (with Johanna Rothman) of the annual Influential Agile Leader event. Any given day, you can find him coaching, consulting, training, speaking, facilitating and writing. Get Gil's popular 20-session mini-program, Something Happened on the Way to Agile, free at OnTheWayToAgile.com.

Let’s say you’re joining a newly formed agile team. Whether as a PM, manager or team member, how can you help your team succeed? The list of good answers is pretty long and varied:

  • Make sure roles and responsibilities are clear.
  • Get a good agile rhythm going (for instance with iterations, daily stand-ups, reviews, retrospectives).
  • Facilitate working agreements.
  • Funnel all the work through a single coherent list, such as a backlog with stories.
  • Create a build-deploy pipeline.
  • Write automated tests for every new piece of code.
  • Remove real or perceived barriers to collaboration.
  • Ensure that the team has a proper charter.
  • Keep the stakeholders happy.
  • ...and lots more!

These are big ticket items. Many of them take a while to accomplish and have no obvious endpoint. How do you stay on top of everything?

When I coach managers, leaders and teams, I like to offer a single mantra: Finish Small Valuable Work Together (FSVWT). A team with this focus will naturally address all the above items, and they will quickly become a strong team.

Clearly, this mantra reinforces key agile ideas: finishing, value and collaboration. What I like about it even more is: It suppresses behavioral patterns that hinder agility. One such anti-pattern is overemphasizing standardized (“best practice”) process mechanics. I’ve met many teams that …

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"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

- Albert Einstein

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