What if you would Ask Your Team? Invitation based change

Written by , in category Agile & Scrum

17 April 2019

Senior management announces “we go agile”, and nobody in your team has any clue why or how. Sounds familiar?

Of course they are right. They are the leaders. They should know the way forward. No?

Probably they have heard from another company X, probably even of one of their colleagues/friends in their (LinkedIN) network, that framework Y works – Spotify is very popular these days so it seems…  

And let’s be honest, this new way of working seems to be extremely popular. Everybody seems to be using it. It just works, or so it seems. Let’s copy/paste. Next time I see friend Z, I look forward to sharing my success story too!

The team members on the other hand have no clue why they need to change the way they are working (Everything Starts With Why by Simon Sinek). Ok, there are issues, but now it feels that we are just failing miserably and that only a total renovation can save this house. When asking their leaders, they receive a very high level, pretty unclear reason. Yet they feel they’ll have to do it anyway. And so they start.
Pretty mechanical though. A Daily Scrum. A Sprint Retrospective. A Demo (not a Sprint Review, they do not understand this not so subtle difference…). This new way of working fortunately is just using some rebranded templates, and, unfortunately some additional meetings…

After a while, typical a very short “while”, the team members do not see any value. And they give up. It does not work. Falling back to old habits – what they were used to do at least gave them certainty and results. And apparently the manager does not ask anything in particular about it, only if the project is progressing… which it does…

Wondering what would happen if you would “Ask the team” (Coaching Agile Teams by Lissa Adkins)?
I’m not saying to give them carte blanche. On the other hand though…
Give the team an objective, what is your real problem or opportunity you want to see addressed? An example could be faster time to market.
Explain the team any real constraints they have to take into account. For example the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Values. And ask the team. What steps do they see? What tools do they need? What practices do they feel useful? The outcomes can go pretty wild. And that is OK. You need creativity in the room to solve complex problems. Let it flow. An Open Space workshop is a great way of harvesting loads of ideas with corresponding actions that come from the team.

Challenge them by asking a number of powerful questions (e.g. co-active coaching Powerful Questions).
And as a last step give them all the support they could possibly need and get out of their way.
After an agreed period, let’s say three months, evaluate the results together. And iterate.

I can witness. Teams that are living command-and-control for years, where ideas were put on a stack and nothing moved, all of a sudden feel a spark. A spark that after all something does seem possible. Can it really be possible that we can make a change for the better of the team, for the better of the organization? And then at the end of a hard day of facilitating a workshop you conclude: yes! They did it! A wall – literally – full of ideas and actions. What a great feeling! Try it out, this one solution: “     Ask     The     Team     ”. And be prepared to be surprised…

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