Introduction to Data-centric Agile Transformations
Teams and Organizations adopt Agile to bring in the changes- faster turnaround, better results, quick reviews, dynamic teams.
The mindset change that is constantly talked about in Agile is still challenging to fathom because no one really knows how much of a change it is. Yet, the philosophy seems nice to look at- people over tools, working software over documentation- yes everyone needs it.
While teams get structured, work is re-evaluated, Scrum masters trained and Agile coaches hired, everyone knows change is coming. 66 days is what it takes for any change to happen… and no matter what your role is, this is tough on everybody.
Data, as it happens, is so underused in Agile transformations that it needs a book by itself. Data-centric approach to Agile methodology can be used to inspire, create gamification models to encourage team dynamics as well as create a monitoring mechanism to help convince stakeholders that things are moving.
So, let’s look at these categories and see how data can be mapped.
Data is neutral and yet has the ability to create an environment of positivity. Used correctly (both qualitative and quantitative) in the early stages, it can help us understand and build the environment. The following points can help you introspect as a team as well as individually.
The Happiness Index- On a scale of 1-5, rate your team on how happy you are working with them and give a reason for it. Done anonymously in team retros or just randomly is stand-ups, this brings out anger, conflicts, and reasoning in a completely different way. However, beware this works only when this is conducted by a third party (like an Agile coach/facilitator). The score, of course, stays for further comparisons in the future (you can do it release wise, yearly etc). It makes everyone open up; however at the same time realize their opinions matter or someone is listening. You can find the points that get repeated and connect with the right person who can get it resolved.
Find Your Team Mate- In this scenario, ask your team to anonymously write one quality about themselves that no one’s know about (not related to work). Now take those sticky notes and put it up on a wall. On the other column write the name of the team members- now ask the team to match the quality with the name. This is an amazing exercise for any team whether the dynamics are good or bad, new team or seasoned team, co-located or distributed.
The reason it works so well is, in our everyday mad rush at work, we often forget to appreciate each other as humans and focus on the skills and getting the work done. We don’t even know who we work with anymore. This exercise is always eagerly participated and the results astonish team members themselves. It gives introverts and extroverts the same playing field and helps teammates understand how to motivate each other.
Motivation is essential in any Agile team and yet this is an overlooked category in transformations. We know from Harvard Business Review that happy teams take up more complex challenges (https://hbr.org/2013/04/to-find-happiness-at-work-tap). So, what data can be looked at to ensure teams are intrinsically challenged?
1) Publish Case Studies- Publishing case studies of successful teams with adequate data might be a wonderful information radiator of teams that truly motivate others.
2) Team Reports- For retrospections, using the available team data can bring insights which are otherwise difficult to trace. Team reports can start at a basic level and track:
1. User Story Committed vs Delivered
2. Team velocity
3. Sprint Burn Down
Understanding what they have done and where things could have been improved under the guidance of an able manager, should inspire teams to perform better in the next sprint.
3) Value Stream Mapping- Look at the entire cycle flow for a sprint with your team, take the waste out, make changes to your practice, keep tracking, talking and changing till you think the process is completely yours.
4) Defect Reports- While looking at what went wrong or missed isn’t always motivating in the short run, seeing and ensuring a root-cause analysis is done and changing the strategy accordingly and reducing the account definitely is a mood booster for teams.
5) Velocity Charts- Another way of looking at what has been delivered in terms of complexities over a period of time and if the chart differs way too much, the reasoning behind when and in what condition more complexity was delivered. The dips could be because of holidays or new joiners or attrition rates.
A happy team is a productive team. Conflicts and egos are added complexities that are best resolved immediately.
Retrospective- Seeing what the trend has been as a team and if the action items are being resolved should improve the team dynamics to continuously strive to improve. Track the action items to the positive changes made in the team and publish the data. Or alternatively, find the trend and see where usually the blockers are, this set of data while can be used fantastically by the team it can also be used by the manager or the coach, who when implementing for another team will use strategies to ensure the same trend doesn’t surface.
Kudo Cards- Recognitions from team members would be a wonderful feeling for anyone, tracking them over releases or yearly on what someone is doing to help can create team appraisals and not individual ones.
To summarize, data is always your ally, nudging and pushing you towards the right direction. Data isn’t just for management/stakeholder reports which it’s usually thought out to be, it should be embraced with equal inquisitiveness by teams and coaches and anyone who is remotely really trying to understand how transformation happens and how teams and individuals react to it.
Data-centric Agile transformations shouldn’t just be e-mails sent out by management, it should be about thinking deeply about what it entails, what might change, the reality, and the expectations.
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