Whilst no two teams or contexts are the same, over a number of years of setting up new agile teams and rolling our agile across enterprises during large scale agile transformation, we have found that starting small with the basics and adding patterns as they start to develop capability has helped us get new teams up and running within 2-3 days and acheive a baseline of agile capability within 3 months. So how do you get them started and set them up for success?
ZXM has found that communicating a pragmatic and incremental approach to change assists the cultural and necessary behavioural change to move forward with agile.
Start Small Approach
ZXM uses a “Start Small” pattern when helping new program areas take their first steps with agile, particularly in a scaled agile product environment.
Through activities based on the Plan -Do–Check–Act Model, we’ve develop a roadmap for agile capability maturity and this approach ensures our agile coaching activities won’t adversely impact delivery and business-as-usual outcomes while still achieving the objectives and timeframes with getting up to speed with agile.
Our “start small” approach gives program executives the comfort that their teams don’t have to think too hard about the rules of new agile frameworks and can just focus on getting the basics right. It has also enabled us to focus coaching the core agile values and principles, and getting the aspects of people and interactions right, over being too concerned about helping program leadership manage people attempting to align to hundreds of potential agile processes.
Start with Strengthening the Basics
Start with the basic Scrum Framework. provide an overview training session of the key roles, responsibilities, events and artefacts. Work with Team to develop enough product backlog items to get started on their first sprint
Add Patterns and Practices
Support and mentor people in key Agile roles such as Scrum Masters and Product Owners. Add pattern and practices iteratively and incrementaly to build their capability. Petterns include value based planning, capacity planning, velocity and cycle time
Reflect on Learnings to Improve
Teams identify improvements each and every Sprint and dsicuss what's working and what's not working. Assessment of acapcbility using tools such as Agile IQ, helps identify cmatuirty and suggests improvement areas to grow tehir capability
Scale learning to New Teams and Programs
As teams’ knowledge and experience grows, actively share their learnings and promote alignment and consistency of agile practice and establish an agile centre of excellence to support Programs and Communities of Practices
The team is the centre of agile and Scrum is a “team sport”. Scrum Teams are self-organising and cross-functional. They “choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team”.
What does buiding an Agile Team involve?
They have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others outside of the team. Operating model supports networks of cross functional teams needed to deliver value rather than orgnaistion structure
Optimise for Effectiveness
Optimal team size is small enough to remain nimble and large enough to complete significant work within a Sprint. Typical size is 3-9 people. The team model is designed to optimise flexibility, creativity, and productivity.
Structured and empowered by the organisation to organise and manage their own work. Scrum Teams have three roles: Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team. There are no sub-titles which reinforces “equal voice”.
Starts With Leadership
Leadership support for change is critical. The key is to encourage behaviours, actions and an agile mindset to ultimately lead affect cultural change and leadership is key to success of agile transformation initiatives. A key focus is to mentor leadership to understand the indicators of cultural change and how to drive behavioural change across the organisation
As highlighted by the 2020 State of Agile report, the key challenges experienced when adopting agile at scale indicates that internal culture remains an obstacle for success in many organisations.
- Organisational resistance to change – 48%
- Not enough leadership participation – 46%
- Inconsistent practices across teams – 45%
- Organisational culture at odds with agile values – 44%
To help the leadership address these key challenges to agile implementation, we coach and enable the leadership to communicate messages across the organisation agile transformation rollout and readiness preparation. This includes working closely with leadership to identify how many teams they want to set up and the outcomes they are looking for by moving to more agile ways of working.
We also encourage leaders to consider “squadifcation” as a way to empower and involve proposed Team members in forming and self selecting teams. We provide them guidance on team set up blueprint for the mix and types of capabilities and skills the teams will need and the types of work that will be included in the Product Backlog.
When setting up a new agile team, managers, team leads, team members and stakeholders need to be aware of the types of changes that will occur to the way they work. Importantly, their interactions will start to change as leaders move to supporting self-organisation of the people doing the work over managing functional siloes.
We then deploy overview training for executives to help them establish the basics of roles, responsibilities, terminology and good agile practices. From there, we coach program leadership and teams on a day-to-day basis during their first three months. Whilst training is the initial starting point for organisations moving to agile ways of working, it is not the end point and working with leadership to establish an Agile Centre of Excellence (CoE) for ongoing support on the organisations journey is critical.
Team Kick Off
The team needs “just enough” structure to start work on their first Sprint. We start with one day of agile essentials to give them teh basic Scrum framework and agile principles. An initial layout of the known and best-understood requirements as a Product Backlog is key. The product backlog will then evolve as the product and the environment in which it will be used evolves. Having a consistent understanding of that work, how it contributes to the product vision, the roadmap and the team roles that will help to achieve the result, are the key setting up the team for success.
To build the foundation of the teams understanding of the new way of working immediately after agile overview session training we suggest a team kick off workshop to help expedite team forming. In thsi session we support teams to develop:
- Team Charter
- Team name/forming
- Team capability matrix (blueprint)
- Team Product Backlog formation with user story writing
- Scrum Master mentoring on roles and responsibilities
- Product Owner mentoring on roles and responsibilities
- Infographics on roles and responsibilities and key events
- Team preparation checklist
Scaling to Enterpise Agility
As more teams are rolled out and the teams continue to develop in agile maturity, these teams tend to form teams of teams. This is when scaling accross the organisation starts to lead to a “tipping point” of agile teams and this is where we start to see the results of setting up a standardised and consistent approach and focusing on developing an agile mindset helps fuel Enterprise Agility.
As more Teams are set up, these teams form a new Agile Release Train or Nexus group at scale and focus on business priorities, value outcomes and continuous imp;rovment on their journey to increasing agile capability and maturity.
As teams mature on their journey we have seen them strengthening their bonds and connectedness, through working together on challenges. They have become more deliberate in their communication, resolving and seeking help for impediments and providing early feedback on the progress. There is a commitment to backlog refinement to ensure alignment on expectations of the work and organisational vision.