Agile Culture

Culture is intangible. It’s hard to touch. Hard to define, hard to measure. However, it is the critical piece for the organizational success. We may debate if culture follows an organizational structure or vice versa, but I don’t think it is important. Culture reflects our values and philosophy. The way we are. Being Agile is about changing mindset. If enough people change their mindset, the culture changes and they become Agile Organization. Simple if you say it this way, but hard to do.

I’ve been looking for a good definition of culture for years. I surprisingly find it at CAL (Certified Agile Leadership) training which I attend from Michael Sahota in California. I very much like his way of describing culture, and I used it as an inspiration for my drawing.

Agile CultureThe culture consists of two parts. The mindset and structure. I’ve always seen the mindset as the most important part of culture, a driving force. Something which can change the structure part if done well. To my belief structure is always preventing us from change, from being successful. So shall we change the structure or mindset?  I would always go for the mindset. It’s harder, but it brings significantly better results. Create a clear goal. Purpose. Something which makes to you stand up every morning and put energy into it. Something you truly believe in and are willing to take ownership and responsibility for. Something which makes you collaborate with others, something which makes your day. When you succeed with the mindset, you are usually ready to change the structure. So I truly believe that structure follows mindset. Which is good, because as the first step you can start with changing yourself. 🙂

Leadership – Myself Dimension – #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s continue with the last element of ‘Myself’ dimension. As we already said in the previous blog posts, each element of this dimension is represented by a dice which you can roll every day of Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The fourth dice stands for leadership. If you want to transform the organization, your leadership style shall change first. In this element, we talk about being a servant leader, creating the culture, feedback, motivation, collaboration, and leader-leader style.

Servant Leader

ScrumMaster is a leadership role. One of the aims of ScrumMaster is to make others work better, they are servant leaders. They can heal relationships, create communities, listen to others, have empathy, and think beyond day-to-day tasks and short-term goals. Only when you become servant leader you can be the great ScrumMaster.

We Culture

Agile needs the right culture. It’s all about us, how we work as a team. Be collaborative, support each other, take over responsibility and ownership for the team. ScrumMasters shall be using their leadership skills to create such culture because without it Agile and Scrum can never be successful.

Feedback

Give and receive feedback is critical for every leader. It’s important prerequisite to inspect and adapt. ScrumMasters shall be actively searching for feedback and find creative ways to allow people to learn from it.

Motivation

Part of the motivation is coming from the environment and culture. ScrumMasters support intrinsic motivation factors as they are aligned with their goal to create a self-organized team. Motivate through an understanding of the purpose and clear goals, safe to fail learning environment, and open and transparent culture.

Collaboration

Collaboration is written in the Scrum DNA. Scrum is all about teams and collaboration. There is no individual work important in real Scrum, no individual goals. We do our best to achieve the goal – deliver value to the customer.

Leader-leader

The leader-leader model helps you to change the traditional leadership style of leader–follower where people are expected to follow orders into the leader-leader concept of servant leadership where leaders are here to help the other people to grow and become leaders themselves.

Agile at Saigon, Vietnam

I had an opportunity to spend some time with teams in Vietnam. Explain them Agile and implement Scrum process, bring in the understanding of it, and help them to apply it. It’s always good to travel for your work to some nice places, and Saigon is indeed very nice city. Very friendly people. How was it? Quite different. The way of explaining things needed many detail examples, however there were fewer problems with having people accept the whole idea.  The most difficult part was I guess to explain the agile mindset, implement agile culture. They always used to be organized by strict hierarchy. Who reports to whom. And now we had a cross functional teams consist of both developers and testers, so who do I report now? Who is going to assign me new tasks? And all those questions. If you for some reason put one person out of the teams as a shared resource, he immediately stop working and did just management decisions from that time. When we asked why, it’s because only the team members are here to do the work. And I’m now more important. So I don’t do any usual daily job. On the other hand, once they understood the process, they follow it. They don’t discuss if they should or not, no complains that they are corporation with specific habits so why they should change them.  Once you explain it so they understood they do their best to make it working.

Agile community

I’ve always tried to meet with local community while I’m traveling. It’s fun. They sometimes reply and you organize something together, sometimes there is no response at all. Agile Vietnam was a surprise; they have extremely active Facebook community. I’ve sent an introduction and in a few seconds I’ve got several replies. So already the first night at Saigon I’ve met with a group of people to talk about startups. Small group, not really from IT environment, but trying to learn new thinks, improve English, it was nice evening.

The next day I arrived on Barcamp. Huge event with 3500 people registered, kind of unconference where attendees are voting for presentation to be presented. I was talking about agile implementations, some British lady about bringing Broadway Theater to Saigon. You can talk about anything. Audience is deciding whether it is interesting or not.

The last event I had there for the community was free Starting Scrum workshop. One afternoon the organizers of Agile Vietnam invited everyone to Saigon Hub. And we had two hours to try basic Scrum principles. I introduced a game where the teams were building a high tower from marshmallow and spaghetti. It was fun. The very good think is the game was working well even in this different culture. They did a great job, and learned a lot about how Scrum process works with respect of the delivery of PSP at the end of every Sprint, communication to the customer, team development.

Back home

So to summarize my experiences, I would love to come back to Vietnam or another interesting country for work. It’s different, it’s fun, and it’s working. The training itself will not make any big difference to them. To change their way of working and mindset you have to be there, you have to spent time and help them understand and apply the theory. This is something which I as an agile coach can help them.

Agile Adoption Story – Common Mistakes (part 4)

But John still feels we should continue with agile adoption process started in previews articles of agile adoption story. It’s not going well so far, however, we just spent some money on training so we should give it a try. The project manager even if he is now called Scrum Master is keeping the common practices; we had still the same allocation system and organization structure. So when the Scrum Master got one-one meeting with John, he must admit Scrum process adoption has some issues ant it’s not really successful so far. But as John needs any improvement, he finally asked: “ok, so what needs to be changed in order to make Scrum working in our environment?”  And the Scrum Master selects the most crucial thing which bothered him – the allocation of the people.

Group of people makes team

Scrum is based on team cooperation and collaboration, so how should we use Scrum in the current conditions where we never know in front what time we got resources, people are allocated in front and took out of the project without any in front notice. They are sitting somewhere in the office matrix without any direct connection to the project. So let’s imagine they are just because of Scrum process moved to one shared place and from that time they are called “team”.

How this could work? Starting from the university, those highly specialized engineers were learned they are good enough to work individually on their tasks; any help offered there was called cheating. And now, they should work together? Even more in the company where were built strong silos called development department, testing department, and so on. And those silos have different managers with different goals. Those managers usually don’t like Scrum at all, as they had to delegate their responsibility and got less direct influence on the individuals.

However, the particular engineers happen to be sitting together in one room, having a Scrum Master, who is trying to sell agile to them. In a reply, he is often hearing questions like why do we have to talk so much, why should we select what are we going to finish? Just tell us what to do and keep us working. We are specialists and so we can’t lose our expertise in sharing knowhow.

So finally after some time, the Scrum Master is in John’s office saying “Agile is not for us”. We are different, we have too complex product, we are too big/small to implement agile. Our customers are like this and that, and you know, agile is great, just for a different company.

 

Being Agile

For already some time I’m struggling about the definition of agile. What is it really about? What are the key parameters and how do you recognize you are agile? I spent in agile environment more than 7 years, and had met hundreds of team. But surprisingly, that doesn’t make it any easy. Every team was different. Every team had adopted different practices, implemented different processes. Can all of them be called agile? After all, I would say yes. There are many agile ‘fanatics’ who would be saying you are not agile because for example you don’t release every sprint, have fixed price and time model or just don’t follow enough practices.

For me, agile is a culture thing, it’s about the way you are addressing things, how do you approach problems. It’s a philosophy, rather than fixed process you can just follow without understanding. You must appreciate it, and live it. Otherwise you end up blind – following some practices you’d never really understood. Agile is about team cooperation, about sharing experiences and helping each other. It’s about transparent and open communication.  Identifying problems and risks fast enough. Agile is about fast feedback loops, where you see what went well and what you can change or improve. It’s about the ability to accept change in your daily life. Don’t be complaining the world around you is changing, be a change yourself. It you succeed, you are agile, despite of what everyone else is saying.