Yeah, we’ve been doing the Agile thing for awhile. We get it.
Nah, we’re not doing planning meetings. We know where we’re at.
Retrospectives? They take too much time. We’ve got this. We know Agile.
When you start to hear things like this, someone’s checked the Agile box and moved on.
If you’re saying things like this, you’re a box checker.
And the saddest part about it is that Agile isn’t a box you can check. If you think it is, here’s a better box to check:
Because it’s the truth.
And here’s a harder truth: if you’re an Agile coach embedded in an organization, you just might be creating box checkers.
Let’s have a look.
You’re an embedded Agile coach with 10 teams. Two teams have been in flight for three years. The other eight teams just completed a 2-day Agile training and are beginning their Agile journey. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could use some of the experience gained from those two in flight teams to plant seeds of success for your new teams?
Yeah, it would. But here’s the hitch in your giddy-up: those two teams ain’t up to snuff. They’re not mature, nor are they continuously improving. They’re over Agile. They’ve even stopped holding planning meetings at the beginning of each iteration and instead, planning every five iterations. Retrospectives? Pshaw. Haven’t held one in two years.
And you set them up this way because you forgot one thing – that, by the way, is completely fixable: you forgot to do an Implementation Maturity Model (IMM) assessment before you stepped into this mess.
This could have involved an ethnography (in other words some research through observing the teams in action) or used a software tool to track your in flight teams’ progress in the Agile journey.
And now, you’re in the unenviable position of having in flight teams that need to unlearn. They’re also in no position to serve as guides for your eight fresh teams beginning their Agile journey.
So, let’s fix it. Let’s have a look at how you as an embedded Agile coach, can take a single step to help prevent breeding more Agile box checkers.
See, you had no way of knowing that these two in flight teams had checked the Agile box. Well, actually you did. By using an IMM before you begin an embedded coaching journey, you give yourself – and your teams – the gift of the true lay of the land. You’ve gotta have a map if you’re going to accelerate a digital transformation.
IMMs let you start the engagement by observing the experienced teams and privately giving them your insights on their strengths and weaknesses, where they can improve, and where they can mentor others. In the reflection, you explain how the shortcuts and compromises they’ve made over time (read: box checking) were impacting their performance and continued improvement — as teams and as a company. After this gentle yet purposeful calling out of the box checkers, you have greater awareness of the issues and constraints that these teams face.
And your in flight teams also get another gift: a renewed dedication to the core principles and practices of Agile. They’re challenged and inspired to be the role models for the new teams starting out.
Now, here’s what you’ve got. Your new teams get reinforced from two sides: your coaching and information from the veteran teams. There’s no more disparate information impacting your ability to accelerate on your digital journey. This also means you’ve become an ally to the Scrum Masters in the veteran teams, providing fresh inspiration, insight, and energy to help their teams improve. Together, you help the Product Owners better understand their roles and the limits of what the different teams can and cannot deliver.
You form a Scrum Master Coaching Corp to share patterns of what is and is not working. You’re the facilitator, teaching them how to collaborate and generate deep learning. As the Scrum Masters learn how to effectively and efficiently coach and improve, they become passionate about helping their teams practice and use Retrospectives to continuously improve.
That right there? MAGIC. And it’s the total antithesis to a box-checker culture. And you made it happen by taking a moment to assess team maturity before going hog wild as an embedded coach.
Oh, and for extra credit? You built the bridge between the teams and upper management to ensure the success of Agile on the whole. Because the only way for your awesome maturity assessment to go wrong is by not making sure it’s understood by those making decisions at a higher level.
So, go YOU. Way to kill the box checking culture. And way to remind yourself that one extra step to assess team maturity can actually keep Agile in action instead of just a word that’s used and a box that’s checked.