Agile transformations often get lost in the doing of agile. What does ‘doing agile’ look like and who do you know that you as a coach may be stuck there ? Here are some of the signs that I have seen show up regularly :

  1. You are coaching to a metric that revolves around improving Agile Maturity and the talk amongst coaches is around resetting ceremonies and making sure everyone is doing all the ceremonies in the right way
  2. No-one is talking about how the delivery of value is improving
  3. No-one is talking about how we deliver the work (the process the teams use to get the work from the backlog to done).
  4. The phrases flow & bottlenecks are seldom (if ever) heard

If you think this may be where you are, then know that it isn’t an unusual place to be – you have plenty of company. Turning things around is simple, if not easy.

Turning the Ship around

“Stop installing processes and ceremonies! Instead, start solving business problems using Agile”

The underlying assumption behind this anti-pattern is that the process in and of itself will create better results/ delivery. So we focus only on the process (Scrum being the example I see the most). It sometimes works, but only for a while and only so long as the coaches are working hard at policing agile.

Escaping this anti-pattern is as simple as shifting the focus back to the original intention of agile – to support high performance or put another way, to get more value to the customer with more ease.

Here are different questions to use as a coach to reset your coaching focus:

  • For the sake of what are you focusing on <insert your ceremony of choice> ? What is the impact you are wanting ?
  • What is the business problem you will be solving ? What is the shift that we will be able to observe as a result ?
  • How do you expect this to improve the flow of value to the customer ?

Ironically, certain ceremonies are cornerstones of some of the business problems teams experience. A daily stand up can be the difference between a team choosing new, unplanned work or not. The ceremonies that were a fight to get into place suddenly fall into place with ease when they are being used by teams to solve a problem that they are experiencing. And it isn’t as if we are short of problems to find in the beginning of an Agile Transformation.

When you start to ask yourself and your team what would have the biggest impact on shifting them to more predictable deliver of value with more ease then magic starts to happen. Agile has the potential to take anyone and any team, out of struggle into high performance and who wouldn’t want to live that ?