Dave is a new team lead. As a team lead, he was supposed to help with his organization’s transition to agile and help the more junior members of his team learn the codebase. His team had several problems: each person worked alone, their one tester was overwhelmed, and he, Dave, felt torn between helping his colleagues and finishing all of his work.
Dave is a leader, although he doesn’t feel much like a leader right now. He feels caught between his work and the organization’s desires and the team’s needs.
If you, like Dave, feel caught between conflicting needs and desires, here’s what you can do:
- Define why you want to make this change. It doesn’t have to be “world peace” although I’m all in favor of peace. It can be a small why. Here’s one of my favorites: “When we focus on one thing at a time, we’ll deliver faster.”
- Look for allies across your team and organization. Maybe someone else on your project team agrees with you. Or, if you’re on a management team or a program team, maybe someone there agrees with you. Have a one-on-one (link) and see what they think.
- Look for a specific small possible change. You can explain specific small changes as experiments. Experiments help people realize that whatever this change is, it’s not forever. They can improve the change and you are more likely to succeed.
Dave decided to meet with Sherry, the team’s named Scrum Master. Sherry wasn’t sure how Scrum Mastering was supposed to work. Neither were her managers. The management wanted to know “When would all this work be done?” which meant Sherry acted more as a command-and-control project manager. She wasn’t happy and felt as if she had no good choices.
Dave and Sherry discussed their team over lunch. He asked about her challenges and how their managers judged her success. She asked him, too. They both realized they had common goals: focus on one piece of work at a time so the team could deliver higher quality, finished work. They also realized they were both acting in a command-and-control way instead of a facilitative way.
They decided to change their roles so they could facilitate the team together. They decided on this goal: finish one story at a time until the end of the next iteration.
Sherry called a team meeting (she didn’t wait for the retrospective) and asked how many people were frustrated by their lack of progress. Everyone raised their hand. She explained that she and Dave had this idea about finishing one story at a time. She asked the team for their concerns and challenges.
Sherry facilitated the meeting, looking for concerns and options before helping the team settle on an action plan. The team decided to try this:
- Sherry would verify with their Product Owner which feature was number 1.
- The team would swarm on that feature, checking in with each other every 90 minutes. If someone was done with their part, that person would help anyone who needed it. The tester had already said she had first dibs on anyone available.
- The team would do a quick retro at the end of that feature to show it to the PO and to understand what worked and didn’t work.
Sherry had a challenging conversation with the PO. He wanted it “all.” Sherry explained he needed to rank the work. He finally ranked the first three features.
The team started to work on the first feature. Dave and Sherry’s boss came by and wanted to ask the team to add something else to their backlog. Sherry explained he couldn’t add anything and why. She had a long conversation with him about the PO’s role and multitasking. Her boss wasn’t happy, but he agreed to ask the PO.
The team had mixed results. It took them three full days to complete that feature, not one day. They realized that feature and all the rest were compound stories and would slow their delivery of high-quality work. Sherry’s action was to speak with the PO about the stories. In addition, the tester needed help automating her previously manual tests, so she could run them as regressions. The team put that problem on their backlog. Sherry added that to her discussion with the PO.
A couple of notes: I am not claiming these folks are agile. They are using agile terms and not working by the principles. I’ll explain more about this in the next installment, in next Pragmatic Manager. Look for that part in about a week.
Gil Broza and I are offering the Influential Agile Leader in Toronto May 9-10, 2017. We are already half full. Sign up now and reserve your spot. Let me know if you would like to discuss anything about this workshop. Early bird registration ends March 31, 2017.
My online workshops for Q2 are:
▪ Build your writing habit with Writing Workshop 1: Write Non-Fiction to Enhance Your Business and Reputation
▪ Learn to engage with your readers is Writing Workshop 2: Secrets of Successful Non-Fiction Writers
▪ Become an effective product owner with Practical Product Owner workshop
If you’re not sure about any of them, let’s talk.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
If you like the idea of romance between smart technical women and just-as-interesting men, I’m starting to write romance in my spare (!) time. See Johanna’s Fiction.
Till next time,
© 2017 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile, coaching, influence, servant leadership