Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Agility is all about people

"If you put fences around people, you get sheep"- William McKnight, President and Chairman (1949-66), 3M.

"What is Agile?", " How can we do Agile?", "Are you Agile?", "Measure whether the team is Agile", "What practices we should follow to be become really agile", "Is this team 100% Agile or 50% Agile"..
These are few questions which are frequently asked by various stakeholders of the organizations /(s) with which I have been associated with. I am sure you also would have heard such kind of questions in your day to day execution of project..
Well, Let me put my perspective of Agility..

Agile means quick , active, lively in literal meaning. Agility is the pace at which we respond to the customer and provide what the customer need. The team need to be really quality conscious and have practices & processes that can help in faster response to ensure this.

To be Agile , it is important that the people associated with the project is highly motivated. They should have the shared dream to be successful. Team should take pride in working together and executing the project. Team should be able to define the rules of the project and follow them well. Team should decide when to meet for the daily standups. Team should collectively decide the appraisals of each other through the 360 degree feedback. There should be collective ownership for the delivery and all should work towards ensuring that the common goal is met. There need to be sufficient flexibility in the team for changing the rules of the project as the situation demands. The Scrummaster or the relevant role should support the team in following the rules and protecting the team well.

All the practices of Agile (eg. XP, SCRUM) gives very high focus to the agility of people. In fact all the practices of Agile works effectively only if the people executing it executes with the real objective in mind. I have seen tasks getting completed just because somebody wanted it to be completed. I have also seen tasks getting completed where the whole team had a vested interest to complete and they strived hard to complete. The difference is very visible. The quality of the second one really shows. In my opinion there is no alternative to have a highly motivated and energized team to have a good agile team. If any team want to see their customers really happy and deliver what they want, they must have a motivated and energized team to execute the project. Unlike other industry, software development is highly people centric. So, of course, it is different and it should be handled differently. We must encourage team to open up and build up a very positive environment of Trust where the members feel motivated, energized and feel like doing anything for achieving the common goal. Real Agility can only be achieved by this. The practices of Agile are just a means to achieve this. There can be more and better practices which can be found. But we need to keep people as our centre of focus.

Building a highly self organized, motivated and energized team does not mean that Business is not the focus. Our team exists due to the Business and we need to do everything possible to ensure that our business is successful. A self organized and motivated team can achieve and deliver more business..

1. The Art of Agile Development- James Shore & Shane Warden
2. The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility- Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick

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