Bringing a team together during Agile Transformation

(Königssee, Germany) Facing an Agile transformation process, it is extremely important to bring together a team at the same level of “language” and knowledge about the Agile methodology.

For that, all team members must have the same meaning and understanding for the main Agile concepts. It is a semantic challenge and it is possible that it can be overcome with Coaching and Training, one and the other in different phases of the transformation process.

It’s an important condition, once we start an Agile transformation process, to have all together in the same level of knowledge about the the methodology. It implies such a large change in the organization that, in my

opinion, it is extremely important to have at least the same semantics about the method throughout the organization.

Copied from Wikipedia, Semantics is the linguistic and philosophical study of meaning, in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It is concerned with the relationship between signifiers—like words, phrases, signs, and symbols—and what they stand for, their denotation.

In my opinion, we should all speak the same language with the same meaning:

  • What is a user story?
  • What is a backlog?
  • What is the scope and responsibility of each role?
  • What are ceremonies?
  • Why do we need to estimate user story? etc …

If we do not have the same meaning about the concepts, we will end up applying Agile labels on concepts with which we feel more familiar, often concepts of previously known methods.

We can also fall into issues such as granting a Product Owner role to someone who never wrote a user story, or having a Scrum Master who never organized a retrospective meeting, who never touched tasks to improve the development process, and there could be more examples. listed here. To avoid this, training and coaching are fundamental parts of an Agile transformation plan. Training plans should consider the entire organization, including all levels of hierarchy and areas of expertise.

I would say that for training and coaching programs to be more effective, they must be customized to achieve the goals of agile transformation and begin to stimulate discussions for future phases of implementation. For example, this type of discussion should be initiated:

  • What is the most appropriate Agile method to manage a backlog at the portfolio level?
  • How can we plan the alignment between the backlogs in different portfolio levels (portfolio, product, feature, component)?
  • Should we have independent backlogs or a unique backlog?

Many more questions will pop up in your mind as soon as you do some team discussions.

All together (including managers)

During my career, sometimes I observed that some managers were not part of the same training as their own teams. They feel so busy that they only attend very high level training courses and allowing them to the meaning of the fundamental concepts. And this is, in my opinion, completely wrong if we aim to practice Agile methods.

Everyone in the organization, regardless of their hierarchical level, should have been part of an Agile team for some time. It must be an immersive experience so that you feel the differences compared to the previous applied methods.
Concepts such as self-managed team, flat hierarchy, informal leadership by area of ​​expertise are complex concepts for the major part of intermediate managers or executives and they are easier to be assimilated if they take part of an Agile Team for some time.

During the Agile transformation process, problems and inefficiencies will be brought to the surface due to a much higher level of transparency and regular alignment. For example, questions like those:

  • Are our infrastructures well managed? Or scaled?
  • Are our suppliers efficient?
  • Are we giving them enough support to make them perform better?

Making managers and executives responsible for solving those inefficiencies is crucial. Managers and executives become team players, committing to finding solutions.

The comfort feeling when sharing problems and asking questions is a key value in Agile, which executives should be able to promote. To develop a culture of be a problem solver should be promoted across the organization.

Conclusion: training is important, practice too, especially if assisted with coaching

  The training should be used to bring everyone together at the same semantic level. In addition, training should provide up-to-date knowledge, theory and best practices from similar industries at expert levels to discuss complex technical issues such as how to implement DevOps processes for particular industry cases.For that, customized technical sessions are often recommended. Followed by consulting services from external experts for specific recommendations, enhancing internal discussions.Coaching plays a role in overseeing the implementation of the Agile transformation. A coach is a moderator between the different levels of the hierarchy, someone neutral to the organization, who has a limited time in the company, who advises on the Agile process in the different methods, ensuring that the company finds its position.

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