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Agile Culture Essentials (ACE) Hot Shots Series

Effilor hosted a successful series of Hot Shots on Agile Culture Essentials to help practising leaders to understand the nuances of culture in helping Agile teams deliver better outcomes.

We thoroughly enjoyed the interactions, learnings and sharing of perspectives.

Here is a summary of the 5 interactive sessions we hosted in July-August 2021.

Key Takeaways

July 22nd, 2021 : What’s the role of a Manager in an Agile Team

A Manager’s role is changing from task management to helping the team deliver outcomes. A manager, therefore is more a facilitator, coach and impediment remover than “I’m in charge” task master.

The leader or manager plays an important role in ensuring the team feels safe to speak their mind in any forum. So how can this be done? Here are few points to consider…

  1. Evaluate leadership style – Is it authoritative, paternalistic, participative, delegative. Consider moving towards participative leadership style and avoid “Telling” the team what to do

  2. Provide feedback to teams frequently and in a timely fashion. Make sure the feedback is contextual and avoid motherhood statements

  3. Feedback should be used only to increase team output and deliver value to customer.

  4. Ensure every team member’s role is clear and everyone understands each other’s contributions.

  5. When there is an issue or conflict, fight for the cause and never against the person

  6. As a Leader, speak less in meetings and prompt everyone in the team to speak. Demonstrate that you are an impediment remover.

July 29th, 2021 : How NOT to manage Agile teams

Don't decide who should do what in the team

  • Instead, allow the team to discuss and decide task assignments among themselves

Don't track task completion of individual team members

  • Instead, focus on team outcomes planned for the sprint

Don't move members in and out of the team

  • Instead, adjust scope. Allow the team to understand and get used to each individual's strengths, speed and style of working

Don’t direct standups or other agile ceremonies

  • Instead remove silos and hierarchies in the team to build psychological safety

Don’t fix the problems the team comes to you with

  • Instead help the team build the capacity to fix it themselves

August 5th, 2021 : How do we turn teams upside down !!

  • 3 key areas to enable teams to be self organized : Goal setting, decision making and assessing performance

  • Managers need to let go of fear of loss of control. Rather can they facilitate their teams to understand the broader business context and drive pride in their teams

  • When a team understands the purpose of the project or the organization, they are able to better visualise their own contribution serving a larger cause. 

  • Even if the team members do not have the competency to take decisions, manager plays a crucial role in helping teams be self organized by setting boundary conditions.

  • Maintaining transparency on workload distribution across the team, and understanding each others’ dependencies is very key.

  • Team performance is enhanced, when everyone understands that their contribution is part of a large jigsaw puzzle and they don’t want to let the team down!!

Aug 12th, 2021 : Can ownership be improved in a structured way?

  • Ownership can be categorised into 4 levels depending on the degree of participation and degree of commitment viz – Dependent, Contributing, Co-Owner, Ownership.

  • In a traditional model, many of the decisions are taken by seniors/Managers and teams are given a set of tasks to execute forcing them to be dependent or contributing.

  • Any measurements put in place should contribute to understanding of how the project is delivering on its purpose. By prioritizing the wrong measures, team collaboration and outcomes to the client are impacted.

  • To drive high levels of ownership, its important to also look at the team structure and how the structure will drive behaviours including how leaders are measured and incentivized.

  • If the leadership team is not fully aware of Agile or does not follow Agile practices, ownership will remain low or there will be mini-waterfalls within each sprint.

  • Ownership also increases when the product roadmap is well articulated and the team knows how the sprint goals align with the overall roadmap.

Aug 19th, 2021 : Building decision making ability in your teams

  • The “Boundary of Action” Framework to help teams take decisions. The four components of the framework are

  • Results derived from the work done (e.g. what will customer value? What is DoD?)

  • Rules and statutory compliance needs (e.g. contractual obligations, licensing needs, 3rd party agreements)

  • Quality of the work delivered (e.g. focus on finishing before starting more, team capacity in a sprint)

  • Ways in which people interact (e.g. wisdom of crowd in estimation, engage with Product Owner to prioritize backlog)

  • While there will be several instances where decision need to be taken quickly and the manager may have to take a “spot” decision, most decisions in business transaction do not need spot decisions. By using the Boundary of Action framework, managers can coach their teams to take decisions and do what is right for their clients.

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