Showing posts with label global teams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label global teams. Show all posts

Agile| 6 Ways to Keep Agile Teams on Track

Aug 25, 2020 | | 0 comments |

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Agile teams are being tested. The world has changed, and many teams—no matter what their structure was prior to the pandemic—are working from home, on top of dealing with increased COVID-19 challenges. While the demand for deliverables and work continues, the roles, responsibilities and efficiency of agile teams come into question. 

An agile team can, in most cases, work around the uncertainty and still get things done. To keep your agile teams moving forward, implement these six strategies:

1. Focus on the planning.

Yes, everything is subject to change, but planning is essential. This exercise (release planning, grooming or sprint planning) allows team members to understand the upcoming work and ask the right questions on time. Additionally, it’s a great way to train team members to provide estimates after going through the requirements in detail. This allows for better planning, wonderful execution and timely delivery instead of spillovers. Teams can use a variety of platforms available online to get the training done. Tools aren’t as important as the interaction itself. 

2. Track team health.

Working from Home

I always think the organic way to look at team health is through the consumption of buffer percentage. It is simple because during planning, your team assigns hours to tasks and you get the total hours you will need to complete the user stories. You also know the team’s total capacity (availability of the team during the sprint). Create a team buffer of about 10 percent and then plan for the sprint.

If during the course of the sprint your team consumes the buffer and still has spillover, you can increase the buffer. Track the consumption of the buffer percentage and determine if the team is estimating correctly, and if they are clear about the user stories. Buffers can let you know the team’s performance and, with it, the trend of the team’s deliverables. 

3. Prioritize retrospectives.

Teams must have a growth mindset, and nothing is better for fostering one than the ingrained cultural habit of retrospectives in agile teams. There are creative ways of conducting retrospectives during these times, even if they require workarounds. For example, perhaps instead of just focusing on the work and aligned data, retrospectives can include personal challenges as well. This not only allows the team to gather and feel seen and heard, it also allows teams to evolve and see if there are ways to reduce personal challenges. 

4. Encourage leadership.

Leadership shouldn’t be limited to just a coach or the leadership team. In fact, team members should be trained to make decisions when it comes to work or conflict management. I have always found that when the team lead or management encourages an open mindset for teams, teams take up challenges or new learnings because of the support they receive. These teams always perform better in the long run. 

5. Determine the happiness index.

Apart from other team data, there should be an insight that allows you to understand how a team is doing emotionally. In a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains that a happy team can better handle complex problems. Finding the happiness index is one of the most revelatory exercises you can do with a team. Simply ask everyone to rate their happiness working with the team on a scale of 1 to 5 and why. Keep it anonymous so people share honestly, and you will be surprised what comes out. These are all hints that can lead you to identify unresolved conflicts, build retention and discover serious issues. 

6. Take action.

Many of us have good intentions. But unless there are actions that follow, trust falls apart. Be careful in committing too much and always follow up, whether it involves actions required from the last retrospective or something that has come to your attention.

What are some ways you keep your agile team on track? 

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Why is creativity important in agile?

Majority of teams and organizations believe, agile is about ceremonies and productivity and leveraging the flexibility by forcefully changing requirements and showcasing books and authors on how it has been done.

 In ‘Building the Agile Business’, author and digital strategist Neil Perkin describes an agile business as being ‘velocity x focus x flexibility’. In other words, a business that is focusing its efforts on moving in a clear direction, but that also has an in-built ability to adapt and change course if and when necessary…..Taking an agile approach enables brands to test new ideas early on and to adapt easily to changes to ensure maximum success. 

In most scenarios this over used buzzword has also created myths around it that very few can differentiate with reality. Like doing stands up doesn’t make you an agile team. An organization isn’t Agile if only teams are forced to change without telling them why the change is happening. It only leads to bitterness.

There are the supporters and the naysayers who argue over whose agile (implementation) is better. They quote authors and books and bring out snippets of blogposts and argue their case. In all this chaos, I have barely seen teams question what they do and why they do? Why the change?
Creativity often ignored isn’t considered as mainstream thought process in resolving real time problems. The flexibility or adaptability in Agile is sometimes taken as a license to leverage it without thinking.

While certain outlines needs to be adhered, creativity or free thinking can always help resolve problems even when it revolves around process. The most creative individuals are those who can see the things that everyone else misses. 

Looking at data trends in an agile team can tell you where lies the core problem, to put an end to mechanical retrospectives and really finding ways to get the team talking needs creativity and to eventually see what’s working and what’s not and to better the team is about thinking differently.

So, should we incorporate in Agile training's about the need of looking at a set of problems  and thinking how to resolve by adhering to your team culture, by encouraging team members to come up with a new set of solution, bring the team together in discussing collaboratively and telling that it’s not about the tools, it’s about you. Bring you to the table, bring your ideas, disagree when required and respect the difference of thoughts. 

(Pic courtesy: Google Images)

Team Building- Pt1

Have a team?  Have trouble communicating them. Feel you are always on the wrong side?

And you want to win them over?

Here are some theories:

Maslow’s Team Building Theory- his pyramid had 5 levels and you have to complete one to move on to the next. From the bottom:

  • Survival/basic needs
  • security/safety Needs
  • Social
  • Ego status/Esteem Needs
  • Self-actualization

So, identify your team members level, make them comfortable and let them move forward to the next.

Theory X and Theory Y-Developed by Douglas McGregor, he described 2 opposing views of style that will influence management style.

Theory X- is the tradional view of direction and style
Theory Y- a self directed workforce that takes an interest in the goals of their organisation and integrates some of their own goals into these.

Theory X assumes:
•The average person dislikes work and will avoid it unless directly supervised.
•Employees must be coerced, controlled and directed to ensure that organisational objectives are met.
•The threat of punishment must exist within an organisation.
•In fact people prefer to be managed in this way so that they avoid responsibility.
•Theory X assumes that people are relatively un-ambitious and their prime driving force is the desire for security.

Theory Y effectively takes the opposite view.

It assumes:
•Employees are ambitious, keen to accept greater responsibility and exercise both self-control and direction.
•Employees will, in the right conditions, work toward organisational objectives and that commitment will in itself be a reward for so doing.
•Employees will exercise their imagination and creativity in their jobs if given the chance and this will give an opportunity for greater productivity.
•Theory Y assumes that the average human being will, under the right conditions, not only accept responsibility but also seek more.
•Lack of ambition and the qualities of Theory X are not inherent human characteristics but learned in working environments that suffocate or do not promote Theory Y behaviours.

The color Works- Team Building Theory- The Colour Works uses a psychological model of behaviours that helps teams to understand similarities and differences in order to become more effective.

A 25-frame online evaluator measures our preferences for the use of all 4 colour energies.We will all have a dominant, a secondary, a tertiary and a least preferred energy.This detailed questionnaire is designed to measure these levels as it uses a sliding scale of responses rather than a simple YES or NO.The resulting profile is comprehensive - a minimum of 24 pages covering amongst other things strengths, weaknesses, stress points, blind spots, management style, preferred environment, communication needs, value to the team - often scarily insightful and unique to the profilee.

The order and intensity of your colour preferences places you on a 72-type wheel, made up of 8 archetypes, as follows:

Has the ability to focus on results. They decide what it is they want from life and set a strategy to achieve it. Their natural assertiveness means they will push both themselves and others to achieve goals.  They are not put off by setbacks.

Has enormous enthusiasm that he spreads to those around them.  Their drive to succeed gives them a high level of motivation to achieve their dreams.  They are not easily put off and find it easy to think positively about every situation.

Has well-developed people skills and has a constant need to enjoy interactions with others. They are persuasiveand their quick minds produce creative solutions to others' problems.

Has a genuine desire to help others and put their needs first. This makes them flexible and adaptable with a natural ability to share ideas and knowledge.

 Has a true team approach.  Their expert listening skills can uncover others' true needs and they are loyal to both their colleagues and their organisation.

Can pull all the loose ends together to organise themselves and others in a structured approach.  Their planningand time management skills make them thorough and reliable.

 Can write the book on product knowledge required for their job.  When others need the facts to make a decision, they know them.  They set the standards for others and analyse and collect the data.

Has a natural desire to monitor and judge performance.  Their own approach is disciplined and logical and they back this up with a determination to succeed.

What are you using to effectively work with your team?

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(Image Courtesy: Google images)

Working in a Global Setting - II

If you are in technology chances are you have or will work with a multicultural team who are perhaps located miles away at some point.

Either they are part of your team or work has been outsourced.


 They are here because they are part of the team and want to help as much as you do
 Clear instructions help when working miles away. So, when work is delegated ensure you have mentioned what is required, when and how you want it delivered.
 Try listening when they come up with issues and being in their shoes.
 Distance can be a major factor, so overlapping times for meetings might be necessary.
 They are emotional. Bonding as one human to another might help, instead of focusing only as colleagues.
 Communication gap will be the source of discontent. Conversations/phone calls should be given priority over emails if traveling onsite/offsite doesn’t seem a feasible option during the recession period.
 Fairness matters
 Don’t take things for granted, please re-confirm.
 Recognition for special initiation or delivery encourages everyone to pitch in or contribute to the best of their ability.
 Understand the regional politics and try to keep it minimal. Lesser the better.
 Beware of the cultural taboos when conversing with the counterpart from other nations.

To know more about working in a multicultural team, click here

Working in a Global Setting- I

Have you worked with a globally placed team ?

If you are getting into it, there are certain things you might want to consider:
  • Time zone difference is the most important thing to consider
  • Culture needs to be treated as a bonding factor
  • Accents and language barriers can be solved
  • Work ethics should be synched
  • Communication will keep the team together
  • Work will happen on how you manage all of the above
So, why hear it from me? Having worked closely with two cultures- Indian (by birth) and American (Masters degree and later work) I have survived and made some lifelong friends on the way from both the worlds through my work. Being globally placed is awesome.

Part II of this post coming soon.

(Picture Courtesy: Google Images)