Back to List

Decision Rights, Team Lead Communication, and Smackdowns (Habits of a Successful Agile Team)

Rachel Rieck Rachel Rieck  |  
Aug 08, 2019
 
If you have experience on agile teams and are looking to tweak a few things or try something different, then this blog series is right for you. This is the fifth blog in the Trifecta of Greatness series and highlights a few last habits and techniques. For more background on the strategies and tactics our Solutions Consulting Director learned from a pivotal agile journey, be sure to check out the first four installments.
 
This blog covers a few last key ideas that worked for Delta (our high-performing agile team) and should work for you.
 

Clarifying Decision Rights

In Scrum, the team is supposed to come together and figure out how something is going to be done. However, if you have worked on any project team, you know this isn't always the case. Often, even Scrum teams spin a little. On the Delta team, we understood there sometimes could be a little spinning, but especially in consulting you must follow a timeline. We need to make decisions quickly and move forward because we don’t have a lot of time to churn. Therefore, Delta would try at all costs to come to an agreement.
 
There were a few cases where we couldn't. However, we all agreed who in the Trifecta of Greatness (comprised of me as the Scrum Master, the Business Analyst and the Tech Lead) would be the decision-maker. We would talk about decision rights on each section of the project as part of our ground rules and definition of done. If a question regarded backlog, our Business Analyst had the final say. If it was our Tech Lead, he had the final say. If it was schedule, I had the final say.
 
Now, we weren't dictating. We worked together to try to come to an agreement. But if we couldn't (or if we were indifferent), we would simply say, "It's your call. We respect that. We respect the people on our team and the leads for the project and know they're going to do what's best if we can’t come to an agreement".
 
In the larger project I talked about with Delta (covered in the first blog of this series), we only had a few scenarios like that, and they generally weren't big disagreements. We got through those (and our one big disagreement) quickly because we had an agreement on decision rights.
 

Daily Leads Call

The second thing we found super-helpful was a leads meeting. If you have a smaller team, this may or may not be necessary, but we found it really was helpful. After the daily Scrum, we'd have a leads call. In daily Scrum you're going through yesterday, today, and blockers. The leads call was more about, “What do I need to do to keep the Trifecta of Greatness totally in sync within each of their roles, and how can I make sure that no one can break that communication?”
 
Communication is important. If people can find holes in your communication, it can start to break down the project. For example, sometimes we would have clients who would go to their Business Analyst for a question, but (if they didn't like that answer) they might come to me. If they didn't like that answer, they might go to the Tech Lead. In that scenario, it was very important that we were all on the same page every single day and that we didn’t have gaps in our thought process. If there was a challenge, we talked about it right away. We could collectively decide things like our plan for communicating out whatever we needed to so we were always on the same page. That Trifecta of Greatness was really holding us strong, and it kept all our teammates in alignment, too.
 
If we were deciding on how to handle something in the team, I might say in my leads call to my Business Analyst, "We have an issue with the other Business Analyst. Here's what I did. I had a one-on-one meeting with them to talk about it, etc." Then I’d ask them, “What do you think you need to do to back up what I said and also support the associate?”
 
We would also talk about any project issues, if any issues came up during the stand-up, and what the leads need to do to help facilitate the team’s work. The lead call is an open forum where we could quickly talk about anything else regarding the team and how to stick together on our thought processes. This was a super helpful (and usually very short) call because we were constantly in sync.
 

Smackdown Cards and Having Fun

The last thing I want to cover is called a smackdown card. It’s a little fun and reinforces that mistakes are welcome (which was covered in more detail in the second blog in this series).
 
Let's say you have all your ground rules and your definition of done; you're rolling with stuff and then suddenly you make some sort of mistake. On Delta, we made a punch card like those paper or plastic coffee cards (old-school, right?), and we'd put stickers on them when you made a mistake. If each person filled up their card, then they would owe something to the team. Whether it'd be a drink or ice cream or whatever, the team would come up with something fun. Team members would then joke with each other, “I can't wait until you fill up your card so you can do x, y, z for the team.”
 
Let's go back to me and the backlog. Say, for some reason, I get a little excited when I write a user story and my BA says, "Get out of my backlog." At that point, she can give me a smackdown. And then I can laugh about it and say, "You know what? You're right. I should never have been in there."
 
Then she gives me a little sticker (and a lot of times the stickers were fun and seasonal around the holidays), and I got to be reminded in a fun way.
 
The teams had fun with this, and it supports the idea of making mistakes without having it being such a negative thing. Mistakes aren’t negative. They are how we learn.
 
But wait, there’s more! Check out the next blog to look at how you can use human hard-wiring to create a strong agile experience.
 

Watch the Full Presentation

This blog is an excerpt of a 33-minute presentation on The Trifecta of Greatness: Creating and Capitalizing on a High-Performing Team. To get all the tips right now, watch our free video.
 
trifecta of greatness
AgileScrum

 

Love our Blogs?

Sign up to get notified of new Skyline posts.

 


Related Content


Blog Article
How to Drive User Adoption Before, During and After Project Launch
Cory SchmittCory Schmitt  |  
Sep 26, 2019
In Part 1, we talked about some of the factors that can impact adoption before the project even kicks off. In Part 2, we talked about the things that you can do to improve adoption during the project’s Execution. In this last installment, we’ll talk about actions you can take just...
Blog Article
How to Improve User Adoption During Your Project's Execution
Cory SchmittCory Schmitt  |  
Sep 19, 2019
In Part 1, we talked about some of the factors that can impact adoption before the project even kicks off. In Part 2 here, we’ll talk about the things that you can do to improve adoption during the project’s Execution.   Know Your Users “Know Your Users” is a broad...
Blog Article
Pre-Project Components That Can Impact User Adoption
Cory SchmittCory Schmitt  |  
Sep 12, 2019
Does the following situation sound familiar?   You were on a project that rolled out a new application to the organization. You and the team spent many long days (and some nights) building the new application. The team worked hard, and you came in on-time and on-budget. As part of the...
Blog Article
Using Human Hard-Wiring to Create a Strong Agile Experience
Rachel RieckRachel Rieck  |  
Aug 22, 2019
If you have experience on agile teams and are looking to tweak a few things or try something different, then this Trifecta of Greatness blog series is right for you. For more background on the strategies and tactics our Solutions Consulting Director learned from a pivotal agile journey, be sure...
Blog Article
How to Use Prototyping to Model and Analyze BI Requirements
Rachael WilterdinkRachael Wilterdink  |  
Aug 15, 2019
If you’re involved in eliciting, modeling, analyzing, or consuming requirements for Business Intelligence projects, this post is for you. This is the tenth and final technique in our blog series on 10 Techniques for Business Analysts (BAs) to model and analyze Business Intelligence (BI...