Viewing Posts by Soma Bhattacharya
By Soma Bhattacharya
In discussions I’ve heard within Scrum teams over the years, three common concerns often come up:
I think this often originates from general discomfort people have when problems surface; but for me,
By Soma Bhattacharya
Sometimes I read an article where someone mentions that “agile is dead,” or that it doesn’t work anymore. I have to pause and think where this comes from. Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that agile never said it would work for everyone.
Most teams and organizations working in agile either step into it by accident or want to try the “trend” to figure out it works for them, then continue working with it. I reached out to my friends who are certified trainers in agile, and they mentioned that they are busier than ever. That world has opened up because trainings are now online, which means you don’t have to travel anymore to take classes or get certified. In addition, the 15th Annual State of Agile Report notes a growth in agile adoption from 37% in 2020 to 86% in 2021. So it looks like agile is still very much alive.
Certification or not, agile is always the most natural way of working. At least, that’s what I think. Why?
So, what’s not to like about it? Not everyone agrees; in reality, things can seem more challenging for some.
Here’s why teams don’t want to go agile:
I don’t know about your experiences, but from what I have seen, agile is usually welcomed by the teams—the problems creep in later, as it’s not something management buys into (and it’s not just me: the Annual State of Agile Report also mentions challenges in adoption like “not enough leadership participation” or “inadequate management support and sponsorship”).
I know those who are happy being agile are aligned at all levels and are working on being a better team every day. It’s all about individuals and interactions over processes and tools, right?
What have you heard from colleagues about why agile isn’t always embraced?
By Soma Bhattacharya
Never fear challenging the norm.
A standup seems like the norm for any agile team, part of the identity associated with being agile. As many of us all now work remotely, it seems that the right way to start the day is by attending the standup and getting the status items, questioning team members—and dealing with interruptions from multiple stakeholders.
Whether you like it or not, there’s no one rule for getting the standup done. It’s about connecting with the team and being there for each other without ruthless questioning.
So, if you are not answering the standard three questions (What have you completed? What will you do next? What is getting in your way?), what else can you do? Here are what I call the three acts:
Changing the norms to ensure things are working for you—and keeping it that way—is agile. No one shoe fits all, so find what your team needs and try it out!
by Soma Bhattacharya
Agile has become ubiquitous in project management, with teams using it to spark out-of-the-box thinking and drive countless projects across the finish line. Yet almost as quickly as the approach popped up, companies and project leaders began to oversell it—and what seemed to be a radical way of thinking has become mired in repetition and monotony.
Agile was about being open and transparent, and people having the utmost importance in the process. Now, if you ask anyone about agile, it’s all about the three questions: What have you completed since the last meeting? What do you plan to complete by the next meeting? What’s getting in your way? There’s also the fear of being constantly monitored and the fact your performance is measured by your team’s velocity.
Breaking out of this mold can prove difficult—who has the time? But with much of the world working from home, now might be the best chance to rethink agile as bold, kind and human.
Let’s look at how that might work.
Agile is bold: Challenge the process. Question what’s right for your team and be open to experiment. To get everyone engaged, encourage team members to ask questions. And try incorporating at least one fun icebreaker in each team standup to get people to open up and spark discussion.
Agile is kind: Just because the data seems all over the place or you don’t achieve a desired project outcome, the team is not always wrong. Look for insights, do anonymous retrospectives, dig deeper and listen more. Avoid making assumptions. Instead, remain empathetic and open as you talk through challenges and navigate team members to arrive at a solution.
Agile is human: Agile won’t work if the team can’t work together and it’s up to leaders to foster a sense of camaraderie. One way to build this spirit of collaboration and rapport is through simple exercises, like using a sticky note or sharable spreadsheet where team members anonymously write one thing they’re good at or that they’re proud of outside of work. Then allow other team members to guess that person’s identity. This isn’t about who wins, but it gets the entire team to communicate in a low-stakes environment.
What are the biggest challenges your team has come across with agile—and how have you overcome them?
By Soma Bhattacharya
Agile teams are being tested. The world has changed, and many teams—no matter what their structure was prior to the pandemic—are working from home, on top of dealing with increased COVID-19 challenges. While the demand for deliverables and work continues, the roles, responsibilities and efficiency of agile teams come into question.
An agile team can, in most cases, work around the uncertainty and still get things done. To keep your agile teams moving forward, implement these six strategies:
1. Focus on the planning.
Yes, everything is subject to change, but planning is essential. This exercise (release planning, grooming or sprint planning) allows team members to understand the upcoming work and ask the right questions on time. Additionally, it’s a great way to train team members to provide estimates after going through the requirements in detail. This allows for better planning, wonderful execution and timely delivery instead of spillovers. Teams can use a variety of platforms available online to get the training done. Tools aren’t as important as the interaction itself.
2. Track team health.
I always think the organic way to look at team health is through the consumption of buffer percentage. It is simple because during planning, your team assigns hours to tasks and you get the total hours you will need to complete the user stories. You also know the team’s total capacity (availability of the team during the sprint). Create a team buffer of about 10 percent and then plan for the sprint.
If during the course of the sprint your team consumes the buffer and still has spillover, you can increase the buffer. Track the consumption of the buffer percentage and determine if the team is estimating correctly, and if they are clear about the user stories. Buffers can let you know the team’s performance and, with it, the trend of the team’s deliverables.
3. Prioritize retrospectives.
Teams must have a growth mindset, and nothing is better for fostering one than the ingrained cultural habit of retrospectives in agile teams. There are creative ways of conducting retrospectives during these times, even if they require workarounds. For example, perhaps instead of just focusing on the work and aligned data, retrospectives can include personal challenges as well. This not only allows the team to gather and feel seen and heard, it also allows teams to evolve and see if there are ways to reduce personal challenges.
4. Encourage leadership.
Leadership shouldn’t be limited to just a coach or the leadership team. In fact, team members should be trained to make decisions when it comes to work or conflict management. I have always found that when the team lead or management encourages an open mindset for teams, teams take up challenges or new learnings because of the support they receive. These teams always perform better in the long run.
5. Determine the happiness index.
Apart from other team data, there should be an insight that allows you to understand how a team is doing emotionally. In a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains that a happy team can better handle complex problems. Finding the happiness index is one of the most revelatory exercises you can do with a team. Simply ask everyone to rate their happiness working with the team on a scale of 1 to 5 and why. Keep it anonymous so people share honestly, and you will be surprised what comes out. These are all hints that can lead you to identify unresolved conflicts, build retention and discover serious issues.
6. Take action.
Many of us have good intentions. But unless there are actions that follow, trust falls apart. Be careful in committing too much and always follow up, whether it involves actions required from the last retrospective or something that has come to your attention.
What are some ways you keep your agile team on track? Share in the comments below.