notes on becoming agile

Introduction

For 8 months I worked for a large organization where my department was the first to move to Agile. This little note is cataloging what I learned while working in a transitionary Agile environment.

Background

The department consisted of about 56 workers + managers/directors had been Agile for just about a year when I joined as a intern. We were split up in small SCRUM teams of developers, BAs, QAs, and a SCRUM Master. Each team worked on a different project all contributing to the same system.

Takeaways:

  1. It's a process

    Don't expect peoples mentality to change right away. When people have worked in waterfall or any strict heirarchal process for so long, even with training they are going to be lost. They often grasp for a "manager". They want someone who gives them the "ok", someone who is accountable for the work and decisions the team makes.

    The team is accountable, it should be a collective decision-making process, and that can be daunting for a lot of people. I think this is actually about how we take ownership for the end products (not necessarily a tangible full product) we produce in the workplace. Agile relies on people to care about their work.

  2. Managers can't be in the middle

    Managers want their teams to make decisions, work out their own problems, and find their own solutions. For that to happen, they need to be fairly hands-off. However, if the manager is fairly hands-off they aren't going to understand the inner-dynamics of the team; how they work best, what level of autonomy each member has, etc. Therefore, managers will be too far removed to make decisions for the team.

    As an example, if management is hiring a new developer and places them in a team, this shakes things up. A big part of having a good team is self-selection for projects, that way people are happy with who they are working with and what they are working on. If management decides to go through the hiring process without consulting the future team, they're putting someone in a team that a) might not need someone, b) doesn't have work for them, c) needs a certain type of person, or any number of interpersonal considerations. Consult the team. Either you're hands-on or you're hands-off. Choose and stick with it because otherwise it hurts the equillibriums within a team.

  3. Training

    Need I say more? Make sure people know the methodology. It's not a one-day course. Have an Agile consultant on the floor or provide regular workshops. Don't half-ass the transition, invest in it.