I spent 3 days at the Hands on agile for leaders course at the GDS Academy in Nov 2019. The aim was for senior leaders across government to understand how to lead across self-organising cross functional teams and implement an agile culture across the organisation. I learnt so much from working and discussing positives and challenges with others. My key takeaways were as follows:
- Creating an Agile culture within the team/organisation is key. It is hard work and takes time but it is do able. Practical tips include: 1) making time to form relationships with people (go for coffee, lunches and organise group activities); 2) creating a culture where I am happy to be challenged by anyone on the team and can challenge others too (when everyone on the team is always in agreement, that is a sign that the culture is not Agile); 3) understanding no one can always get everything right, we all make mistakes. Key thing is when things go wrong we learn quickly and adapt; and 4) shadow/be coached by another team who is doing Agile properly.
- We need to ensure that in a scrum, we actually implement all 5 ceremonies as a team together: sprint, sprint planning, stand ups, show and tells and retros. This sounds obvious and is obvious, but when we are under huge time/budget constraints, it is easy to de-prioritise one, or miss it completely. We may feel this gives us a win in the short term, but it is a slippery slope and ends up leaving the team feel demoralised (and doesn’t help towards creating the Agile culture discussed in #1)
- Adapt the Scrum/Kanban/Scrumban methodology to suit your team’s needs?—For example, if senior stakeholders are not engaging with the two weekly show and tells, have a big show and tell every 6 weeks. Also, set a standard format for show and tells so the team spends no more than 2 hours preparing for it.
- Non hierarchical service teams – preferably people within a service team should not be line managed by each other, as this can hinder the culture of Agile (which is that teams should be non-hierarchical, open to challenge and honest discussions, and transparent) and hinder progress.
- Clear vision and digital strategy – it is crucial to get the Vision right, have it fixed and ensure everyone in the team is aware of this vision, so that we can all work towards it. I will also be digging up our digital strategy too to have a look at again.
- Towards the end of the 3 days, we took the 7 Lenses Maturity Matrix and scored our team/organisation against each of the lenses. This was an eye opener for all of us as we knew there was more to do in our organisation, but this helped us identify which areas need more attention. I think this would be a useful exercise to do with our teams and leaders in our organisation too.
- How does Agile accommodate non-extroverts? We had a good discussion about whether Agile can accommodate introverts and if so, what approaches and methods we can use to ensure our Agile culture and spaces allow introverts to flourish. I’m not sure we nailed this one to be honest, but I am going to look into it further, and someone recommended the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test for everyone in the team, so that one can assess what personality types members of the team have and how as a leader one can adapt approaches to suit every individual’s needs. We do that as user researchers for our participants, but we need to be much more conscious of that for our fellow team members.
Every team member in an Agile team should feel comfortable to challenge and be challenged
Whilst at GDS, I got the opportunity to meet up in the evenings and breaks with friends from the digital world, and it was super fabulous!