As a manager in the middle of the organization, you must be responsible for this “company buy-in,” not the doer or the CIO. You can call it a “middle-and-out” approach instead of the traditional “top-down” approach. Make sure you knock gently on your managers’ doors. Start in January, so you have time for the implementation to take place before your upcoming Christmas bonus is set—it takes time to build an agile team. Beware of management’s problems with the agile implementation. We managers don’t want to commit to agile because we will lose power and, possibly, our Christmas bonuses if the transition to agile doesn’t go well. Managers are the real agile bottlenecks in the organization. Our fear of agile causes us to believe that implementing it will be chaotic, and it can very well be if discipline is not applied. Do you dare put your bonus at stake?
3. Get an Excited Team; Get Rid of the Slackers
So, with my new confidence that we were doing the right thing and with my manager’s approval, I should have formed my newteam. My old team was still around, but were they ready for this agile stuff? Most of the team members were excited about this, but a couple of them were not. Some of them did not see the point and were there only to work their eight hours.
Then, I discovered the biggest defect in agile: It is assumed that people, by default, are skilled, disciplined, and willing to self-organize. The real world isn’t so. People with different skills, cultures, and social frameworks are assembled for a short time to produce a result, aka a project. Some people know that they will be working elsewhere in six months, so why should they bother doing anything other than what’s in the specification?
4. Empower Your Team into Self-organization by Example
With an engaged team, I would have gone to the next stage in the agile evolution, which involves taking small steps over time and pulling from the team instead of pushing my practices. Lead the team into self-organization by being an example. If you act like you want the team to act, you don’t have to put up ground rules. A crowd of people cannot transform to an agile team in six months, or even a year, if they don’t want to do so or they don’t have the tools for the transformation. The urge for self-organization must come from the team’s own desires, like the need to feel acceptance, the need to learn new things, and the need to work in a stable environment, not from a manager who has read a management book.
Do you dare to let go of the planning, budget, and documentation? You must do so, in part anyway, but take it slow—let the team earn your trust. Do not force the team to self-organize, offer book recommendations or take a sudden vacation for yourself. If they don’t get the message and prove it with a team-goal defined by them, perhaps you should reconsider this agile stuff, do some coaching, or in the worst case scenario, get a new team. Next Christmas, you will be rewarded for your courage to build a true agile team when the ROI tells it all and you are improving business instead of micromanaging. (Note that I don’t equate rewards with money here; rewards should be fulfilling your intrinsic desires such as competence, autonomy, and relatedness [Deci, Ryan 2004]).