When corporates embark on Agile transformations they follow a well walked path, they implement a framework like SAFE or add in Scrum or maybe Kanban. The results can be frustrating for all concerned. We now have visualisation, we have Kanban boards. Everyone is doing Stand Ups and we have RTE’s and Scrum Masters and yet the results feel the same. Teams are somehow translating features into man days that equate to story points, estimations are deemed to be commitments and ‘business’ is still expecting things to come out at a specific date… and yes, teams are still ‘not delivering’.

So what is missing ? Because if you look around there are a couple of teams for whom Agile is working and working really well ? What do they have that the others don’t ?

If you look real carefully you may find that these teams aren’t just ‘doing’ Agile, they are living it. The way they engage with each other and people outside their teams is fundamentally different. There is more conversation and not just the ‘oh no, not another meeting’ type of conversation, quality conversation. When the team gets together every voice is heard, differences are not brushed off, in fact when everyone agrees the team gets a little uncomfortable, they start to wonder what they have missed.

These teams are living from a different set of values and beliefs and so the way they show up an the behaviour they use is different. They co-operate and collaborate and so they are committed to making it work and it shows in what they deliver.

So where is your team ? I thought it might be fun to create a quiz to give you an idea whether you are still in the old waterfall (unilateral control) culture or more in Agile (mutual learning) as a culture. The more questions you answer yes to on this (and the more strong your yes is), the more embedded you are in a unilateral culture and yes, that is a bad thing for Agile as Agile functions in autonomous, self-empowered teams and that is a totally different culture

When we meet (including our stand up and other ceremonies)

  1. People tend to be late
  2. Most people seldom if ever speak, it is the same voices at every meeting
  3. If I am running the meeting, I get fed up as no-one seems interested and when I ask for feedback or participation it is just deadly silent
  4. We spent most of our time arguing about what is the best way to do something and can never agree
  5. If we do agree, we get a couple of days (or weeks) in and then someone who was there suddenly isn’t in agreement and we are back where we started
  6. We try and not invite certain people because they always derail the conversation and we never get anywhere
  7. Our meetings are long and go round and round
  8. Most people in the team are unhappy and there is a lot of ‘water cooler ‘ talk
  9. There is a lot of blame, so we try and avoid owning up to it being us dropping the ball when we miss something or are late
  10. We can’t delivery because we rely on other teams and they don’t have the work we need prioritised properly

I could go on! In fact, I do when we run the Building Agile Culture workshop this is what we do – we unpack what it feels like when it isn’t working and then we list what it feels like when it is working, and then we add in the missing bits, why everyone is showing up in a way that creates the culture that you all hate and how to shift into a new culture.

Try this next time you are in one of ‘those’ meetings. Instead of strongly and boldly stating your opinion, be curious and ask the person speaking for more detail around what they are saying! Inquire about the reasons behind the solution or statement they are offering – not because you are looking for ammunition to prove them wrong but because you are genuinely curious to hear their perspective because you know that they may be seeing something you can’t.

Instead of fighting for your point of view and trying to get agreement, ask people if and how they see it differently…. and then listen with curiosity.

This is what co-operation and collaboration look like. When you show up like that the people around you start to feel appreciated, heard and valued and that is when the magic enters a team.

We are running this workshop in April, so come along and be the change, be the leader your team is waiting for.


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