Agile, leadership, thoughts

Stickers, Scars and ENGAGED Agile Superstars

If they ever perfect teleportation I’ll be a late adopter. Sure it would save time but for so many events arriving or getting there is the best part. Think of the pilgrimages, flying around the Sugarloaf mountain into Rio de Janeiro, or into Manhattan from JFK in a yellow cab.

All too often in business we are far too focused on the end goal and ignore the journey, the learning it offers and the chance to improve as we go.

More importantly, we don’t give proper recognition to progress. Why do we wait until a project is complete rather than celebrating the little wins along the way? Quick wins deserve celebrations too!

So many project wins are an anticlimax that could be chopped into micro moments of merriment!

A framework exists for working in incremental micro-moments, that creates agility, flexibility, and engagement. Agile Project Management is spreading throughout the organisation, not just in software development teams.

Why move to Agile Project Management?

May teams move to Agile project management because they can see the productivity and velocity benefits, or they like the idea of being able to change the product being created as they go – a misguided idea. The real benefits I think are in the way teams are recognised and released to do their best work.

The Scrum Tight Four: Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-Ups, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective

Beyond their original intent – helping software teams build better products – the Scrum framework is fantastic for employee engagement.

Sprint Planning

A recent Gallup poll suggests 30% of employees strongly agree that their manager involves them in goal setting. Employees whose managers involved them in goal setting are 3.6x more likely than other employees to be engaged. 
Sprint planning before each period of work allows the Product Owner to prioritise and refine the stories (goals) they wish to complete for the sprint. AND it involves the team doing the work, they help form the solution, how long it will take and what done looks like. They have ownership of the goal.

Daily Stand-Ups

Every day the team communicate with each other (not to their boss) what they have done since last time, what they are working on today and what is impeding their work.

  • Done – creates a sense of belonging, responsibility and a little bit of competitiveness and support. If one team member is ahead the others might compete to get more done, or offer support to someone who is struggling.
  • Doing – lets the team see what they aim to accomplish, they can see if others are in need and where there are external dependencies, they can choose to cooperate or collaborate. My sales teams often prioritise between themselves when there is a queue to get something done externally.
  • Impediments – any impediments should be minimised but when all the developers are held up by something it needs fixing and you have strength in numbers to get it done.

Sprint Review

At the end of the sprint, the team gets to show off the value they have created for customers. Internally, within the team this creates connection as they see how each element is coming together to form a whole. Externally, it allows others to see what the day to day heads down grind is accomplishing. The regular and often reviews create recognition and emphasises the feeling of accomplishment.

Recognition breeds engagement.
Accomplishment feeds happiness.

Sprint Retrospective

Two of the US Navy’s highest performing leaders Leif Babin and Jocko Willink will tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect team. Circumstances and opponents change, a team must constantly grow. What makes a ‘high performing’ team is their discipline and constant analysis of their performance.

“Don’t count on motivation, count on discipline” – Jocko Willink

Retrospectives allow you to reflect on what’s working, what’s broken and what you’ll do differently next time. The team develops ownership of their performance and what they will do to improve it.

What’s key to a great Retrospective is that it is impersonal. It’s not a time for blaming others, it’s about taking ownership and changing actions for better outcomes. It’s also a time for reflecting on what’s working and doing more of that!

Create discipline around relentlessly doing what it takes to succeed.

Discipline di.sci.pline ˈdɪsɪplɪn: Train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.

Stickers and Scars

The daily Scrum and the scrum environment always focus on a visible Taskboard. A Whiteboard containing the teams Sprint goals, backlog items, tasks, tasks in progress, “DONE” items and the daily Sprint Burndown chart.

  • DONE – The DONE column is a spot for STICKERS, patches, and signs of the team’s accomplishments. Every completed Story and Epic is something to hold up, be proud of and stick to the wall for others to see. Pin release feedback, customer star ratings and industry awards to those stickers and attribute them and the team’s actions to your wins.
  • SCARS – Scars are where strong teams take the lead. They pin their failures right beside their stickers. Reminders of what not to do with analysis and actions from it.

Take Action with Agile

I’m starting personal analysis now but my guess is teams using the Agile framework that recognise Superstars regularly will out-perform those who get a complement sandwich and annual bonus.

If you’re interested in boosting engagement, velocity, visibility and transparency in your teams by adopting Agile practices, get in touch.

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agilemarketing, thoughts

Digital Project Management and Tuckman’s Phases

Mentoring teams for digital projects and web development can be plain sailing. No, really.

The Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the memorable phrase “Forming, storming, norming and performing” back in 1965 to describe the path to high-performance that most teams follow. Later, he added a fifth stage that he called “adjourning” (that others often call “mourning” – it rhymes a little better). Wikipedia covers them here –  Tuckman’s phases.

Mad Life

The phases can be seen in project teams of any size, formal or informal and in any setting. Understanding the phases is step one. Knowing how to navigate through each phase at an appropriate speed is the leader’s art. But also a skill for all team members.

Icebreakers, the more embarrassing the better, are great tools to break down the barriers in a Forming team. Unravelling interlinking hands, naming the teams mascot, balloon passing –  all feel a little bit childish. Yet remember how innovative we were as kids. How free our thoughts were…

The Storming phase, despite its name, can be innovation at its best. In a strict management led project – where the projects manager dictates workloads, task and roles – the manager can control overtly domineering team members and assert their positions, tasks and roles. They can also encourage the introverts and push the team through the phases.  Self selecting and self regulating teams, like those in Scrum don’t have this “luxury”, which in a way is a blessing. Team members fall to tasks which they can best perform.

The Product Owner’s job is to ensure they are focusing on the most valuable tasks to complete the project. They must instil an understand of what it is brining to the end product. Giving them an understanding of what, why and when lets them focus on the how.

A good example of teams passing through the Forming and Storming stages in subsequent iterations is the improvements in sizing. As the team learn to understand those that are optimistic and pessimistic about the complexity and time involved in tasks, they learn to how to explain their positioning and understand that of others.

When the team reaches the Storming stage, adhering to strict scrum processes and routine can comfort those who are worried about decisions being made. Point out the phases to team members that have concerns. Also, bear in mind that if your project has dependencies or requires new members mid project, your team to a certain extent, will revert to Forming again.

One Scrum practice that is paramount to the growth of the team is the retrospective after every sprint. An aid to the Mourning or Adjourning phases, the retrospectives focus on open and frank conversation around improvements. This highlights the strengths and weaknesses in the team.

The Mourning, of how things were in their old team encourages members to take the good points through to their next project.

They’ll carry experience of when to sail into the storm and when to tack.

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