Challenges in the organization around an agile team

To talk about the challenges agile teams face we should be aware that these are different for new and small startup companies and the ones that have been on the market for years already with their own history, working methods and culture.

In this article we would like to share some thoughts about the latter – companies with longer history who face the need for transformation because of rapid changes in the environment they do their business. 

What we usually face in these organizations? Just to name some that come to mind:

  • Habitual working methods people are very used to, e.g. individual working, taking commitments and agreeing deadlines on management level without people who actually should deliver the results, blaming and not learning from mistakes at regular basis etc.;
  • Command and control approach and lack of trust, e.g. lot of planning, controlling and reporting mechanisms in place;
  • Defined processes and lot of hand overs (related to control and responsibility);
  • Working in silos with local goals;
  • Job-security attitude – we cannot change because we may lose our current position as valuable employee in the organization;
  • Attitude that business needs to be run, and changes or new approaches will brake something;
  • Approach “Business Side and IT Side” – business describes the requirements and gives them to IT department for delivering by giving up the responsibility of the outcome;
  • Not knowing and not identifying the end customer and business value;
  • Not asking enough the questions like:
    • Why we do things?
    • Who will benefit?
    • What happens if we don’t do the things requested?
    • How could we improve?

How to tackle these challenges? What we see happening very often is that agile is introduced in “IT side” and scrum or some other practice will be implemented. Teams are formed, coaches are on boarded. But results are not coming. In my opinion creating agile/scrum teams is only one side of the story. It won’t work unless we understand the idea of agile within entire organization. Agile is not just a set of practices or scrum events. It is more a mindset and therefore it seems that it is not enough if agile teams or “IT side” in the organization carries and nurtures agile values and evolves the appropriate mindset.

To go with agile beyond IT, and we should, if we run company that develops and maintains the IT solutions for its own business, we should understand that there are more things than just agile or scrum teams in IT department to counter the challenges in modern world. These agile teams need to be in frequent contact with customers, these teams need to be supported by efficient working methods throughout the organization, and the members of these teams need to feel they are part of this organization, they are part of its business strategy and results, and that these teams have all the options to improve their ways of working, skills and competences, to be able to fail and not get punished over that but rather learn and improve.

Eventually it all comes to people and their interactions and relations – the first value of Agile Manifesto. To respect each other, to trust and to believe that people have good intentions when they come to work (and also in their everyday lives). Studies have shown that if salary exceeds a certain amount, money is not the motivator for people to do great things at work. There has to be something else. Empowering people, generating the clear goals together, trusting their competences, supporting learning and their personal growth is the thing that motivates people the most. Not hierarchical command and control structures that bring along mistrust and fear of failing which in turn makes people more resistant to changes, experimentation and innovation. Motivated people do great things. And people will do great things not because they were told to do so but because they want to.

Be kind and share, if you like it