Shifting from traditional waterfall model to agile is a long process that if not mentored adequately could lead to negative consequences for the whole team (and even the organization). I have always been part of a purely production team where we have been applying SCRUM. However, my recent experience includes being part of a more diverse team, where the members have very different background – IT, business processes, marketing & communication, law, etc. We all have the same goal: to change the organization we work in by making it more flexible (to changes in the surrounding world) and independent.
Why Is It Hard To Be Agile?
Being agile is not an easy task and that is primarily because Agile is a mindset (rather than tools and processes). Changing the way one perceives the world takes a lot of time and efforts. Many employers nowadays ask job candidates to do a personality test in order to check whether that candidate would be a fit for the team. I got the last few jobs only with a “simple dialog” interview, rather than with a technical test. Peter Carbonara has written a great article about the hiring process – “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill”. However, when you already have the people in the organization, you must work with them and try to influence a change their thinking habits.
From a Persona To Team Spirit
People work in teams. Working in a team has direct implication to ones behavior. For example, one could very quickly agree on something alone with oneself, but it would be harder to agree on things when many people are involved. A common agreement is necessary in order to progress as a team. And getting to such an agreement requires adequate communication between the members. A typical waterfall team would rely on managers, architects, team leaders, etc. to take all the decisions. An agile team would take the decisions itself (within some general instructions and boundaries). It is about changing the culture of these teams. These people are used to work in one way with each other, but now they have to do it in another way. Some of the members may have got even a different role.
First steps are a big chaos. Everyone asks about everything. Everyone shares everything he or she knows, because of the fear of not forgetting something important. People are concerned about their collaboration and all their questions are answered with “It will come”, which hardly satisfies them at the moment. But it will indeed come at a certain point, because the team members are in the process of re-finding each other. One has to find ones own role in the team together with how to collaborate with the other members. This is a slow process and requires time and efforts from everyone. Moreover, it requires the support of the top management and good mentoring through the whole movement (very strong in the beginning and maybe less in the future).
People may be concerned about their productivity as a team. First couple of weeks would go in (seemingly) wasteful talks rather than an end visualizable product. However, one should understand this is part of the game, as team members are making their rules in the team. They learn how to talk to each other, what everyone expects from the rest, how to celebrate together. The chart below shows a simple illustration of how productivity could change over time.
Agile is all about changing the way we perceive the world. However, the change in mindset is the most difficult one and it requires one devotes oneself to it. It is a slow process, which requires a lot of effort and willingness. Make sure you have the necessary support and mentoring in this run. The outcome is worth. 🙂