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Agile IQ®

Stage one teams

What is a "stage one" team?

A team at this stage of its agile journey is in the Shu stage of Shu Ha Ri. 

A Stage One team is typically either just learning how to be agile, or hasn’t firmly committed to changing the way that they work.

Self-management is the key to moving to the next stage of agility.

What is self-management?

Self-management isn’t chaos. It requires management to set guardrails that define the boundaries for team-level actions, behaviours, and expected outputs.

Self-management isn’t all or nothing. It has degrees.

Management 3.0 reminds us that self-management has various levels of action. Based on a team’s maturity, a manager might completely delegate action to a team, but might make certain decisions themselves.

When making decisions to support self-management, be consistent. 

Behaviours to encourage


Self-management will require managers and leaders to set guardrails for team work, to step back from handing out and delegating tasks, and to promote cross-functional team work.

Cross-functionality over work done in functional silos

Focus on building a team over having a collection of people who simply coordinate their work. Encouraging cross-functionality will reduce functional silos, reduce handovers between team members, and support team members to work collectively toward team goals over focusing on individual work tasks.

Help managers to managing the work environment and its processes over teams and individuals

Delivery effectiveness will increase if managers shift to managing the environment of work and trust and support the team to focus on teamwork to get the job done.

Actions for leaders and scrum masters

Choose a framework and just do the basics

Most Stage One teams get traction when they chose an agile framework, like Scrum, and just stick to the basics. 80% of teams start with Scrum – its 5 events, 3 artefacts and 3 roles – make it easy to start with.

This Start Simple pattern is often referred to as Shu in the Shu Ha Ri pattern byagile manifesto founders Martin Fowler and Alastair Cockburn.

Invest time in good team design

Build a cross-functional team of up to 10 people. Good teams have all the skills they need to deliver their work without having to rely on others outside the team.

Bring work to the team over spreading individuals across many projects

Ensure the work comes to them over spreading people across multiple projects as this behaviour increases variability and reduces transparency of work.

Start making decisions based on the Agile Manifesto

Help the team to make decisions that change the the way they work by drawing on the principles of the Agile Manifesto. When a challenging scenario presents itself, consider what the Agile Manifesto and its principles recommend is the best way forward.

Change in work habits occur when you build a desire to change

An awareness that there’s a better way to work comes first, and then a desire to change. For people to change the way they work, you have to determine the “what’s in it for me” factor and promote it. If you’re wanting people to work as a single team over their functional silos then understanding the “why” and “what’s in it for me” is critical to helping them change.

The benefits from agile only come when you change the way you work

Try not to just tweak current work processes. Real improvement requires real change. Choose one thing to change and then commit to changing it. When that shows results, then change the next thing. Iterative improvement helps reduce the stress associated with big change.

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