How would you deal with a team that resist the Agile methodology?
Welcome to part 5 in our agile coach interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of agile coaches during interviews and client engagements.
Deal with is a strong word. We aren’t there to enforce a specific way of working, we are there to invite the team to explore opportunities and discover for themselves which way of working best suits the team, the environment, and the unique challenges they are trying to overcome.
Understand the team
Your first objective is to understand what the team are resisting.
Very often, when we talk to teams, we discover that they have had a specific methodology or agile framework imposed on them. Something they have little to no understanding of, and so their resistance comes from a lack of understanding and experience with the framework.
Sometimes, they have tried scrum or Kanban, or some other form of agile framework and it has backfired on them. It is very seldom that the framework failed, you just discover that the things they were doing and what was being imposed on them wasn’t scrum.
It was some variation of it and it was packed with duties, tasks and unnecessary documentation that prevented the team from doing great work.
Fair enough, if I had to deal with that, I also wouldn’t be a fan of ‘scrum’.
Remember, you are dealing with smart, creative, and committed individuals who want to be great at their job. If they are resisting something it is likely because they have valid and good reasons for it.
Uncover what those reasons are, interrogate their experience, and gather as much information and data as you possibly can so that you can understand the team environment.
9 out of 10 times, you will discover that what they tried before wasn’t anything like scrum or agile. You will discover that resentment built because they didn’t understand the purpose of the change imposed on them and very little agreement was achieved when implementing the new ‘solution’.
Co Create a way forward
You want to have conversations with the team that help them understand what problems and challenges they face, and how best to overcome those problems.
You want to explore what is happening in the team environment, why it happens that way, and how that all came to be. The systems, the processes, the whole way of working.
Once the team are having those conversations with the aim of continuous improvement, you find that resistance melts away. We’re exploring how things work, how we would like them to work, and what the benefits of solving these problems will be.
There is nothing to resist.
I would offer insights from my experiences with other teams, and I would invite each member of the team to add their own insights, ideas, experiences into the mix.
We want everyone on the team to be committed to co-creating new processes, systems, events, and ideas that will help the team achieve their goals. We want a solid contribution from everyone on the team to ensure that we have buy-in and agreement on the way forward.
A way forward that works for the team, solves the problems that exist, and helps the team create products and features that truly delight customers.
Effectively, consistently, and continuously.
If the team choose certain elements of scrum or Kanban or whatever framework they want to go with, that’s great. If they choose to remove certain elements, that’s great too.
The only requirement you have of the team is that transparency, inspection, and adaptation are baked into the style of working as a rock-solid foundation for product development.
It doesn’t matter where we start, it simply matters that we do start and build on the idea of continuous improvement.
Understand what challenges the team face and work with them to overcome those challenges whilst continuously improving processes, tools, systems, and any other element that will ensure progression and evolution.
When the team own the new style of working and understand why they have co-created this new approach, they actively want to see it succeed. They actively want to contribute and do a great job because it’s designed by them, for them.
That would be my recommendation for dealing with a team who resist Agile frameworks and styles of working.
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