How can I transition my team to Agile?
Development teams can be difficult and incredibly frustrating. Some developers believe that scrum is micromanagement and does not value transparency. Others are stuck in their ways and don’t want to change. Some development teams have had terrible agile leadership, dysfunctional project execution and therefore are far less than impressed with the entire Agile experience.
In this post, I will explain how you can guide the most difficult people through the process and make them a believer. Please note, each team is unique, which means each team requires a unique approach. If you want more information about Agile vs. Waterfall method, check out our previous post: Corporations Moving to Agile.
Become a self-taught expert
Before walking your team down the path of agile, make sure you are well read with some core agile development books. For a quick and insightful overview of the scrum process, I recommend “Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction.” Team members can finish this book in under an hour. Youtube has a plethora of amazing videos like this one from Atlassian. If you prefer to read through the web, we highly recommend Mountain Goat Software (You are welcome Michael Cohn!). We have relied on their interpretation of agile roles and techniques the most. To understand agile, it is a good idea to see both sides of the story, Google “Agile sucks” or “why we quit scrum” to understand the objections.
- Pros: Simple, easy, low-cost.
- Cons: Won’t pick up on many of the nuances that only real experience provides.
Sit down with your team and discuss exactly why you are moving to agile. Explain how the process works, what the benefits are, and listen to their problems and concerns. Bring up your research from why “agile sucks” early on so they are aware that you understand how they might feel. You don’t have to be a developer to command the respect of your troops. You do, however, have to understand their point of view to be able to work with them. Believe it or not, software development, like product fit, involves human empathy. So try walking in someone else’s shoes.
- Pros: Lots!
- Cons: None. Time spent on this pays off in the (very!) near future.
Get Help: Hire An Agile Coach
There is an industry of Agile coaches that will work with your organization to spot problems, collaborate with product managers to “modify” some less desirable behaviors. Then turn the pressure on for development teams to get the most out of them. Agile coaches have varying degrees of expertise, so you must be careful in your vetting process. One of the best we have found is the team at Project Cooks.
Get Help: Hands on Agile Hybrid Training
If you want to train your development team, another reliable option is to have your team co-locate with a software services company that has a mixture of software development and agile training. This emerging model can be found in New York City’s Pivotal Labs. Your team works with theirs for about four months while building a product using Agile techniques. At the end of the four months, your team is capable of working out of your offices with a full and practical understanding of Agile development. Bytelion is currently implementing this model in Baltimore/Carroll County Maryland.
- Pros: Your team works side by side with Agile experts.
- Cons: Expensive model, Team must travel.
Fire Your Way Out
Let’s face it; sometimes you are going to work with some pretty difficult people. No matter what you do, they will not change. There are times that you won’t be recognized as a strong leader. No matter how effective you are as a product owner, there can be an impediment to the relationship that will make you less efficient. If you have either of these scenarios, it is best to cut your losses and find the right people who will fit your organization and culture of openness and accountability.
- Pros: Confidence that you have hired the right team.
- Cons: You will have to shed people with domain knowledge and invest in new people.
You may want to consider a Scrum workshop to certify all members of your organization. These can be pretty expensive, but the benefits should far outweigh the cost. You can find team workshops/courses at scrum.org and scrumalliance.org. For more details the two, please check out our comparison.
- Pros: All principles are covered, team has the same standard
- Cons: Knowledge may be superficial, time away from the office.
Having the right Agile team and culture is critical to your product line. We hope that these options are helpful to you as you move forward. As always, nothing beats engaging at networking events to meet other leaders including conferences and events to hear how they solved their problems.
If you were curious about Bytelion’s agile development process, we are happy to chat.
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org