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Reinforcing the Process (Habits of a Successful Agile Team)

Rachel Rieck Rachel Rieck  |  
Jul 25, 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 fourth blog in the Trifecta of Greatness series. 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 three installments.
 
Many times, people who don't have agile experience (or they've just had a class) will come back after each ceremony or event and say something like, "What are we doing this for? Why am I doing the stand-up every day? It's a waste of time. I like doing my status meetings once a week and I like to code at my desk."
 
They've been working waterfall for 10 years, and they don't understand. They like what they were doing before. I make sure to have responses for these questions ready to go for every single event.
 

General Reminders at Ceremonies/Events

No one may ask the question aloud, but that doesn’t mean everyone understands why we are doing these things. Therefore, in each event I will explain the purpose of these events by answering the following questions:
 
  • What is the value you're getting out of a stand-up?
  • Why are we having this stand-up?
  • Why is it important?
  • How can it help you?
 
Before we start, I’ll explain what each event is and say, "Just a reminder, this is how we're helping to define our communication with our client or the product owner. This is how we're building our relationship with each other, improving our communication, updating each other on blockers, etc." I’ll remind the team maybe once a week for a while until we get a rhythm. I also have a response ready to go for common questions or for those who are being resistant about something like attending a stand-up (I know that's a hot topic for a lot of people). By anticipating these common questions, you'll be ready to go and have a lot more confidence in the answers.
 

Keep Leads on the Same Page

Going back to the Trifecta of Greatness (comprised of your Scrum Master, Business Analyst and Tech Lead), all leads need to be exactly on the same page on how to respond to people. That’s important because maybe your Developers don't always want to listen to a Scrum Master or a Project Manager. Or maybe they don't quite get it because they think differently, and we don't necessarily understand their work.
 
But when the Trifecta is in total alignment, after I explain why we are doing these events, I’ll have the Tech Lead talk to that Developer (for example). The Tech Lead can usually explain it in a different way than the Scrum Master so your Developer (or other team member having trouble) will understand it.
 
Use that Trifecta of Greatness and have these common responses ready to go. That can ensure every team member understands what the event is.
 

Plan for a Reversion of Habits

You also need to have a plan for a reversion of habits. I've seen people go along, understanding what you've said, they’re aligned, and then (suddenly) maybe three to four weeks in they start reverting to old habits. You need to have a plan for that discussion. What do I mean by that?
 
Let's say a team member starts talking about their dog during a stand-up. That’s not really the forum for talking about your dog.
 
So, what I’d do then is have a one-on-one conversation with that person and say, "Just a reminder, here's the format we would like to use in our stand-up. We totally want to hear about your dog, but let's keep it for after stand-up.”
 
After that conversation, I’ll see if they correct it the next day. If they don't correct it, then I’d try using different ways to try to get through to that individual. Sometimes I would even write out what I think this person’s stand-up should sound like. For example: “Yesterday I did X. Today I'm going to do Y, and I have these three blockers.” Then I'd write out for them, "This is with the part where we don't talk about our dog."
 
The reason why I'd write it out is because I'm using different communication techniques to try to get through to that individual. Just like with the roles and responsibilities activity (detailed in the previous blog post), I'm using every type of communication with them. I'm using my voice in that one-on-one conversation and follow-up meetings; I’m writing it out for them; and I’m using other people. If they're a technical person or Business Analyst, then I might have their lead talk to them. We ultimately want to achieve the same thing, so how can we connect with this person? Do they need to see it? Do they need to hear it, etc.?
 
If – after the one-on-one conversation, the written reminder, and talking with their team lead – the person is still not falling in line, then you might have to escalate it to their manager.
 
Now, I'm being extreme on this stand-up example, but you might have other issues or reversions in your other events that could affect the success of the project. Have a plan for how you're going to deal with those reversions of habits so you're not dealing with them ad-hoc as they come.
 
Moving forward, you want to clarify team decision rights, team lead communication, and maybe use smackdowns to keep your team accountable.
 

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.
 
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