Simin was a very successful Scrum Master in the previous company, She decided to enter a new company after two years to gain new experiences. The manager who hired her, asked her, “Our team is so frustrated today and they don’t have any discipline, and I’m asking you to organize the planning, meetings, and process of the team…” She had a lot of energy, and she tried to make it happen from day one. She tried to facilitate various meetings, and …. But after a while, she felt that the team was not accepted her presence and she was completely ostracized. She was feeling miserable and she felt that she could not make the changes she had been asked to.
Have you been in this situation? How to will persuade or push the team to change?
Rule #1: Don’t try to push or inflict the change
The idea that you can push the change to the people, is a wrong idea. Think about creating an attraction around the change.
Rule #2: Don’t start the change from day one, First try to enter the team and be part of them
Most of the time, people don’t have a problem with the change, they have a problem with you 🙂
Consider this situation, somebody comes from outside and tries to save us, it seems good, but on another side, it has a message to us: “Hey miserable guys, hey incompetent guys, hey broken guys, Superman is here to help you…”
It’s really important to get to know them and let them know you before offering any help. Try to understand what is going on there, and respect what happened before you. Don’t try to say everything is broken here and you should fix things. Each system has a history, try to discover the history of that system and team.
Imagine your team is ” Undamaged, resourceful and not in need of fixing “,
The realm of agile coaching is coaches who are experts in the industry and we are we know a lot of stuff and clients hire coaches to go and help them. But We can’t believe that our team is broken. We can’t believe that they are incompetent. They unable to do anything that we’re the superhero and because of us they’re going to be great and successful and without us, they’ll fail. You have to be able to see your team as fully competent. They can do this with or without you. You have the honor of being there to partner with them and they’re great.
Rule #3: Don’t be the manager’s scrum master
Do you just follow the manager’s or your agendas? This is a common mistake between scrum masters, they are just following their agenda or the manager that hires them’s agenda.
You are part of the team, you are there to help them to be excellent. You are not here to just run the commands of managers. Start with something the team cares about.
Rule #4: Do not try to convince everyone
Most of the time we try to convince everyone and align them with us, but it’s impossible. Instead, try to start with someone who would like to try new things. Don’t try to argue about practices, most of the time these are just a sort of a waste of time. Demonstrate success and let them see the result. In many cases, you and some motivated team members need to act as a role model to show the success of practice or idea.
For example, we want to adopt code review in our development process, we can start with someone who would like to learn new things from other team members, and after a while asking her for feedback.
Don’t hesitate to share your idea with me about the change process.
In my last 10 years’ experiences, one of the buzzwords in the agile community was the self-organized teams. everyone talks about it but no one knows how to create one.
It’s all about decision making
All teams face two types of issues, decision making, and execution. When a team is not self-organized, somebody(that we call it manager) makes all decisions and the team just executes them. Whenever we want to create a self-organized team, we should delegate part of or all of these decisions to the team.
It’s all about delegating
Management and leadership books talk about delegating authority. But if you have the experience of managing even a small team, you know how difficult it is. Delegation of any kind of decision depends on two important factors:
The level of maturity
The impacts of the decision
If you have an immature team, give them a lot of authority, the team may get into a chaotic situation and even do the opposite. In contrast, if you have an experienced team, and you do not give them any authority, it will be very tedious for them just to do tasks.
There are plenty of “shades of gray” between being a dictator and being an anarchist. Most managers think they should act like a dictator or anarchists. The etymological origin of anarchism is from the Ancient Greek anarkhia, meaning “without a ruler”, composed of the prefix an- (i.e. “without”) and the word arkhos (i.e. “leader” or “ruler”). (Wikipedia)
Delegation is a step-by-step process. You hand over accountability to other people in a controlled and gradual way. In addition, it is context-dependent. You want to delegate as much as possible but if you go too far chaos might unfold.
How to delegate in action
Delegation is not a binary thing, based on this model, there are 7 levels of delegation-level:
Tell: As a manager, I make decisions and I will tell them.
Sell: As a manager, I make decisions and I will try to sell them.
Consult: I will consult and then decide.
Agree: We will decide together.
Advice: I will advise but they decide.
Inquire: I will inquire after they decide
Delegate: I will fully delegate
Visulize current state of delegtation
The second rule of delegation is: “Delegation is a step-by-step process. You hand over accountability to other people in a controlled and gradual way. In addition, it is context-dependent. You want to delegate as much as possible but if you go too far chaos might unfold. “
The first stage of creating a self-organized team is to visualize the current state of delegation. check the following image:
1- For two or three weeks try to log your decision, for example, “Today I have hired a new team member”, “Today, I asked the team to implement a new feature”…
2- Create a delegation board in miro or mural, and visualize the current state
3- Let the team understand the current state and explain the model to them
4- Let them decide about the future state and you as the manager tells them about the impacts.
5- Review this board at the retrospective meeting and make a decision about the future state again. Delegation is a step-by-step process. You hand over accountability to other people in a controlled and gradual way.
The main idea is to delegate authority to the team as much as you can, but this delegation will be based on the context and maturity of the team. Visualizing this process will increase transparency, which can increase the level of maturity of the team.
As an agile coach, I try to help and empower companies to find their own way and move forward in their agile transformation. But there are companies that just hire me to hold a 2–3 days agile/scrum workshops for them.
I want to tell the story of one of these workshops for a company that we call it “Manko”(Not a real name). All team members, Team leads and managers participated in the workshop. There was a different type of people with different ideas and beliefs about agile:
1-Agile is a great thing and we need to follow it 2- Agile is a new fad and this trainer try to sell his gold hammer to us 3- No idea about agile and curious to learn new thing.
In my courses, I always try to reach the following goals and help the teams to stick to the change after my workshop.
1- Awareness(Why we need to change?)
2- Desire(Everyone or part of them has the desire to take part in and support the change.)
3- Knowledge (What is the Agile and different frameworks, and how they work?)
At the end of my workshops, I try to measure my result with these questions(Do they have the motivation and enough knowledge to start the change? ).
For “Manko” case, at the end of the workshop, everybody was happy and they told me, “We will start to practice from tomorrow and …”. It was so exciting for me.
After a while, I asked them “What is going on there?”, And in response, “Yeah, we are so busy now but trying to write user stories on Jira but developers didn’t update it … Some days we have daily standups, hmmm, not regular and…”.
It was so surprising for me, Why such motivated guys could not succeed in their change plan?
I thought we just need motivated guys to be able to change, and motivation can drive the change. But it was a wrong hypothesis.
The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.
Based on this model, We have Motivated guys but low Ability and no Prompt or Trigger.
Maybe you think that Why they don’t have enough ability? Why your course didn’t make them be able to work agile.
We need to understand the difference between Knowledge and Ability. In a 2–3 days training course, You can just create knowledge for them and not the ability. Even simulations or any kind of games cannot create Ability.
Ability comes from daily and real work. Once the knowledge(theory) is in place, then the individual needs to be supported during the actual performance (practice). They need to do it and make mistakes and learn and repeat and practice.
For example, you are trying to write user stories together with all team members. But you don’t know how to write or breakdown stories for your real project in the banking industry. It will create frustration for team members and as a result, they will put it away 🙂
Cognitively Demanding (Mental Effort) — People probably already have a lot to think about, so any new behavior that they are trying to take shouldn’t increase their cognitive burden too much.
So based on the Fogg model, We need to make teams be able to change their behavior.
Hire Scrum Master/Agile Coach For fostering ability:
Coaching or role-modeling in the real work environment
Access to right tools
Co-Working with a team, for example, breaking down stories together
Trigger or Prompt
Ability and Motivation are not enough to change behavior. We need to a trigger too. There are three types of the trigger, each aimed at a slightly different audience.
The spark is a trigger that comes with added motivation. It’s perfect for those who have the ability but lack the motivation.
Our training course sometimes works as Spark trigger. When it comes to training, a spark should help a learner see the Epic Meaning in the behavior you’re asking of them. They want to know why it’s important, and it’s up to you to make them care.
A trigger that is applied when there is high motivation but low ability. It seeks to simplify the task. As an illustration, suppose that you’re trying to eat healthier but you’re not very organized. You can sign up for a newsletter that is delivered every Sunday morning to your inbox with easy-to-make, delicious recipes for healthy meals. This will prompt you to sit down with the newsletter and plan your meals for the upcoming week, right there and then.
I think in our case Scrum Master or Agile Coach can be a great trigger for the team. She can work with them daily, Send them small pieces of training, Show them how to do a task(Like breakdown story),….
For example, I was an Agile Coach in a big enterprise, We tried to use OKR in company level. We held training courses for teams about OKR. Some of them started to write their Objective and Key results in the company’s confluence. So I started to check their pages, and comment for them.
“Hey, Vahid, How do you want to measure this key result “Improve the speed delivery?, Do think we have any number to measure? like Deployment count per week?”
Or I shared good OKRs as good internal examples to other teams in our social messaging groups.
Or One-on-One mentoring with managers to check their OKRs. Giving feedback to them …
They are ready to change. They have the motivation, they have the ability, all they need is the starting gun to fire and they’ll get going. This is just a prompt that serves as a reminder. It can be something as simple as a post-it note.
Scrum masters and Agile coaches can create ceremonies or some reminders for teams to act as a signal. For example, weekly meetings for checking and tracking OKRs.
I think, for sticking on agility, companies need to hire or develop empowered Scrum masters or Agile coaches or any kind of agile practitioner.
Agile coaches/Scrum master need to understand, three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Trigger.
If your team is not motivated about agility, let them know about the meaning and philosophy of Agile, you can ask help from external agile coaches/trainers.
If your team doesn’t have the ability and it makes them frustrated, act as a facilitator and mentor, Work with them, Create a product backlog together. Create a safe space to learn by doing. (Company and senior leader should support you in this stage).
Sometimes you need to act a simple reminder. Ask questions “Hey, When do you want to do grooming meeting in this sprint?”
Asad Safari is an Enterprise Lean/Agile Coach. He has worked as an Agile coach for more than 7 years with several enterprises and startups. He has more than 14 years experience in the IT industry as a Software Developer, Tester, and finally an agile practitioner. You can follow Asad on Twitter and LinkedIn.