It's the typical Agile transformation story. Management hears about the marvels of Agile. Team attends Agile training. Team starts Agile project. Team sees little to no results and insist Agile doesn’t work and it would be so much faster if they just went back to what they had before. Sound familiar?
As we undergo Agile training, we learn that the fundamental benefit of Agile development is to offer a flexible framework to assist teams in managing evolving customer requirements. The benefits focus primarily on the value to the customer. Yet Agile has equal if not greater payoffs for the team. The benefits are stealthily and radically transform the team into a high performing group.
Frequent Team Communication
In typical waterfall development, the phases of development could be a couple to several months, translating into the applicable area (developers, testers, etc.) retreating for a few months to complete their phase of work. The tendency and comfort zone for most individuals is to minimize interaction unless absolutely needed. However, the lack of frequent communication is where the breakdown starts to occur. Frequent team communication via the daily stand-up is a way of checking in and assessing the current state of the team. The daily stand-up is a springboard for discussion, problem solving and team building. Without this frequent interaction, we tend to forget the connection points and interdependencies of the project which only lead to challenges later.
Continual Team Building
It’s very easy outside of Agile to just pass the baton to the next group and assume your responsibilities are done. Agile’s focus is less role based and more centered on user story completion during each iteration, which naturally shifts the team to aim for a joint objective and to function outside of prescribed roles.
Another function of non-Agile projects that easily becomes one-way communication is the weekly status meeting, which essentially goes away for the Agile team. In its place, the team holds daily stand-ups, which serve as a way for obstacles and opportunities to be voiced to the collective team. Team members solicit each other’s assistance and engagement to resolve challenges or build on positive outcomes. This collaboration could range from brainstorming solutions to offering themselves as resources to help one another.
In addition, Agile cultivates team building by promoting co-location of the team. It encourages teams to have a space where discussions and problem solving can occur freely. By nature, people become more comfortable with one another when near each other daily, therefore co-location of the Agile team further stimulates team bonding, and like the other aspects mentioned above, contribute to a high performing team.
Studies suggest it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit. Agile enforces set time intervals in the form of iterations which are recommended to be 14-21 days. Every iteration concludes with a retrospective where the team reflects on what worked, what could improve and what they should prioritize to improve for the next iteration. Essentially, the team is regularly scheduled to self-reflect and determine how they will improve and grow. Unlike waterfall which waits until the closure of a project to assess lessons learned, learning is continuously and frequently imposed under Agile.
The benefits of Agile come from small actions every day which accumulate and grow momentum with every iteration. Agile reinforces the team to consistently practice in short time intervals to maximize opportunities. Focusing on the benefits for the team during Agile transformation allows the team to invest and commit to the process for the ultimate prize of a high performing team.