Do you think managers are the only leaders in your organization? Nope. We have always needed leaders at all levels of the organization.
You might not feel like a leader. How do you discover your leadership?
Ellie, a tester working on a supposedly agile team, was worried. The team worked in timeboxes, but first the developers worked for two weeks. Then the testers finished the testing the following week.
She recognized her team was doing mini waterfalls. She felt stressed because she was always trying to catch up. She decided to first talk to a developer about it.
“Carlos, do you like what we're doing now, with the staggered iterations?”
“No. When you find problems, I'm onto the next thing already. I have to stop what I'm doing and go back. I never feel as if I finish anything for sure.”
They agreed to ask the team to have a retrospective to discuss the problem.
Ellie and Carlos together explained the problem and how the problem affected developers and testers. They gained consensus that this was a problem for the entire team. The team did a root-cause analysis to understand why they had these problems. The team helped generate solutions. Then, the team selected a solution to experiment with, measured, and assessed the results.
Ellie's team decided to stop breaking stories into tasks and to work together on stories, as developer-tester pairs or triads of two developers and one tester. They also reduced the number of stories in progress. They decided to work in a two-week iteration, keeping the testing in the iteration.
After two weeks, the team realized they had more problems to solve. They continued to work as a team to learn about all aspects of their problems and generate solutions. They continued to experiment.
Ellie and Carlos were leaders. They saw a problem, helped create solutions that worked, and helped their team change.
Here's what Ellie and Carlos did:
1. They saw the entire problem.
If you can see the problem, especially from many perspectives, you can now see what is and is not a problem. Ellie may have thought that the developers weren't so great. But, she realized that they had pressures to deliver “fully coded” features to test.
2. They used allies across the organization to develop solutions.
You don't have to fix the entire problem yourself. Ellie checked with Carlos. Was there a problem? If he had not agreed, she would have had to solve a different problem–changing other people's perceptions.
3. They asked the team to experiment and learn as they proceeded.
You might see a solution to your problem. And, maybe it's not what the team needs. When you ask people to experiment, they own the solution, too. You all can assess the solution and see if that solution fits for you. Each of you becomes a leader.
Leadership is not a title. You can discover your leadership by changing your mindset about how you solve problems. Consider how you can discover your leadership.
If you liked these leadership tips, learn more at The Influential Agile Leader. Gil Broza and I create a safe learning environment where you can experiment. We teach experientially, so you have a chance to practice and reflect on what you learn. Please join us at The Influential Agile Leader.
I also have this webinar in January:
- 7 Tips for Improving Your Geographically Distributed Team, Jan 27, 2015.
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© 2015 Johanna Rothman
Tags: leadership, problem solving