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Common Behaviors in Agile Adoption

 

During an Agile Adoption, teams will react differently based on the four modes of a team, Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing.  These typically fall into the following patterns and there is prescriptive guidance for each one.

 

Acceptance

Teams that have gotten involved with a can do attitude have adopted and embraced various tools as they marched down the path.  These teams exhibit high moral, strong quality goals and look to improve iteratively each sprint. These teams have been consistently improving and growing as long as they were left to follow core curriculum and having a new facet introduced every 4 to 6 weeks (i.e. challenge to do something in a slightly different way to enhance performance). 

 

Objection and Resistance

In a recent engagement, this behavior was noted in at least two teams initially by core members and this created conflict and unnecessary delays.  The end result was a team that lingered for near 6 mos (prior to our coaching insertion) and then once the team had some direction, they were able to move forward and be successful.  Worthy of note at this point the team is again having some issues with story splitting and compliance to core standards, it’s significant that this began 6 weeks after direct coaching had moved on.  A Jr. coach has been inserted to assist, but it’s unclear where they stand today.

 

The other team floundered for over 8 sprints (4 months) and failed to consistently follow through and deliver.  The strength of opinions by two key players kept the team at this level.  A stronger scrum master had been inserted and initially the team began moving to improvement and compliance, with norming beginning to take place.  Unfortunately, it’s noted that with the insertion of core management in the room (contrary to Agile) the team has shutdown and the openness they had is now gone.  The comment by the team is they feel threatened again and are concerned as a result of management insertion.  The culture there had a strong command and control model in this branch of the business, so the bad behavior was indeed stemming from above (which I've noted most problems do stem from above in other situations as well)

 

Compliance

Going along tacitly, but not enthusiastically allows a team to comply, but should the change agent, coach or team model remove themselves (as has happened) behaviors then center around ceremonies without heart and a lack of “iterative improvement” to show.  the team ends up going through the motions and months later, have moved to a poor performing team where the mantra becomes, "we tried Agile, it doesnt work for us".  One of the indicators is of a team who’s velocity stagnates for a period of time without showing improvement or drive to change.

 

Management Insertion

Within two key teams, the recent insertion of management has removed the authority and direction from the Scrum Master and now the team is no longer self-governing.  This also points to a command and control model that is counter to a productive Agile adoption.  Command and control typically breed fear and resentment long term.  Worthy of note, team members will come, attend, but rarely innovate as they feel disrespected and “not trusted”.

 

As a result, key behaviors and abilities will never come to fruition without those individuals removing themselves.  A self-governing team is far more fruitful and able to produce high quality work, but as long as they feel someone is driving them, there will be no self-incentive to move towards iterative improvement, it will always be catalyzed by an outside force.  Once that force is removed, the team will deconstruct or start mis-performing, but never excel as a result.


As always, your mileage may vary, but these are observations that are relatively fresh for us.