By Chad Greenslade
I have often been asked about my lessons learned in delivering Agile transformations. Below is the tenth in a fifteen part series examining my lessons learned while instituting Agile concepts & practices. I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to Agile nirvana.
Lesson 10: Train the Team in Agile Concepts & Practices
While you may have some team members with prior agile experience, you must regard your pilot team as being unfamiliar with agile. You must increase the team’s agile knowledge as quickly as possible. There is only one (1) proven method to accomplish this; you must send the entire pilot team, along with the Sponsor, to an agile “101” class, or an agile boot camp. An introductory agile class is typically three (3) days. Five (5) day agile “boot-camps” are also available. Certified agile trainers will facilitate the course. I believe the most common and effective course is one that certifies attendees as scrum masters. The scrum master course typically provides the baseline foundational agile knowledge that your team will need to be successful.
The reason this training is so important is because attendees learn about and perform the agile processes and ceremonies during the class. Attendees learn “by-the-book” agile concepts and tenets and perform the processes and ceremonies as they were intended, and not adapted to fit any specific organization. Your pilot team should not be taught how to adapt agile to their organization at this time. Adaptation will come later as the team masters the techniques and makes informed decisions about which adaptations truly make sense. Adaptation too early typically results in a team falling back into old waterfall-style habits.
Agile training attendees will learn that they must deliver software frequently, at the end of each sprint, and the processes must be carried out to realize this objective. When training is complete, the team must assess how existing enterprise tools and processes support and / or hinder their ability to deliver software frequently. The team must understand how they will use existing tools and processes within the new agile context. Most tools and processes can be adapted to agile. You will need to engage the owners of these tools and processes to educate them on the support required for your agile project to be successful. If changes to existing tools and processes are required, be prepared to have multiple conversations with tool and process owners to get them onboard with the support required of them.
By the time your team has completed agile training and understood how existing tools and processes will support their agile project, they will need to know where they will physically sit each day. Conventional agile wisdom dictates that teams sit co-located and in the same room whenever possible. Given today’s remote work IT culture, rarely have I seen this play out exactly as specified. The COVID-19 pandemic has exerted additional pressures on agile teams by restricting their abilities to sit in an office. I have found that collaboration tools coupled with a structured and well controlled sprint execution framework can keep all team members adequately engaged, and negates the need for team members to sit next to one another.