If you haven't read the book or watched the TED talk, go and do that immediately. You won't regret it.

I'm going to summarise my thoughts and experience on that topic here.


One of the biggest shames about many agile transformation attempts is that they miss the point entirely. I’ve made this mistake, and I suspect that most brave enough to try have done the same.

With all the excitement of backlog grooming, relative estimation, burndown charts and everything else you suddenly need to know, we understandably have a habit of not tackling the bigger issues.

I’m talking about the trickier, more human problems, that when solved, offer the greatest rewards. The kinds of rewards that live in the absolute core of agile, and what it is meant to achieve.

All those ‘ceremonies’ and ‘artifacts’ are great tools to help us work better as a team, but they’re just tools. Aren’t we supposed to favour ‘Individuals and Interactions’ after all?

 

PEOPLE FIRST…

Whatever flavour of agile you might prefer, remember to have respect for people and appreciate that your business is literally made out of them. When the people are successful, so too is the organisation.

I’ll take that one step further and say that the health & fitness of an organisation is directly related to the engagement & happiness of its employees. I wonder if that’s related to Conway's Law in some way?

It’s quite profound when you think about it. How many times have we sat in a 2-hour long meeting to discuss how a change to process and governance is going to help improve our efficiency, quality of service and due date performance? What if we spent as much energy on our people as we do on metrics? What if, instead of obsessing over processes, we focussed on helping people to be productive and achieve their goals? Could it be that simple?

Not quite,..but that’s where it starts.

Ultimately, processes and tools can only give us more information. That’s a great thing, don’t get me wrong; but too much information leads to over-consumption,..which leads to under-production. My advice is to keep your tool-chain as light as possible and harness the capability of your teams.

SOUND’S LIKE TOUCHY-FEELY NONSENSE!

I know, I know.

There’s a part of me that deeply dislikes ‘that side’ of the Agile camp. The side that would have us doing ‘Trust Falls’ each time we plan a sprint! You know who I’m talking about. We pretend not to see them, but they’re there :-)

Everyone can agree that getting better performance from your teams is a good thing. That is, assuming we’re building the right thing.

So here’s the key…

The single most effective thing you can do to improve the performance of a team, is to provide an environment which motivates them.

Read that one more time. It’s super important.

FINDING THE MOTIVATION…

If you want lasting success and innovation, you have to engage your team members. So how do you do that? Well, everyone is different and it’s not money for sure.

In almost all cases, I’ve found knowledge workers to be viscerally and intrinsically motivated by achievement. Simply put, we crave success.

So if we’re hooked on success, why do so many software projects fail? I propose that without the freedom to make our own choices (and the responsibility that comes with that), the ability to continually improve our skills and an understanding that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, we fall into ambivalence. We become the much maligned ‘plodder’.

Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.

Trust people and they will be trustworthy and trust in return. Develop people, and they will develop the organisation. Give people a problem to solve (not a solution to implement), and they will out-perform any team that have been simply told what to do.

The power of organisation really is in people.