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Why You Should Give Yourself Permission To Suck

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Last updated on
27th Feb, 2019
Published
05th Sep, 2017
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Why You Should Give Yourself Permission To Suck

"Before you get [ good at anything ] you have to give yourself permission to suck first..... Learning is a lifelong process...." - David Kadavy 

I classify myself as a lifelong learner and I believe that I learn more from situations where I have permission to get suck first. Therefore, I feel that it is vital that whilst working in an Agile team, there is an environment where mistakes can be made as long as you chalk those mistakes up to experience and inspect and adapt your thinking to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This is something I try bring into my work life each day.

I believe that as we spend a lot of our lives in the workplace, we should make every effort to make it an enjoyable experience. If there is an environment where it is acceptable to experiment, try new things and fail without fear of reprisal then teams have the opportunity to master their craft, continually learning and adapting. Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School studied this subject and the term ‘psychological safety’ has been coined to describe it. See here for a TED talk by Amy on building a psychologically safe workplace: 
 

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I am currently working with a brand new Scrum team who have never used this way of working before. Whilst trying to help them understand the Agile principles and Scrum framework, I have tried to create the space and freedom for them to try new things and see if they work or not. So far they have had great success in adapting their working methods to ensure that they deliver quality products faster. Working this way has given the Development team the ownership of the overall product they craved, allowing them to feel proud of their achievement as a team.

Introducing Scrum to this team and their business area, they are working with as significantly reduced time it takes to complete a project. To put this into perspective, the first project they did for them took 8 months to complete with a further 6 weeks of post-implementation support. Using Scrum on their current project, they have delivered the entire project within 10 weeks with 2 weeks of post-implementation support. This is a massive step forward for them and a huge learning curve. Following each 2 week timebox they completed a review and retrospective, which gave them early sight of feedback, meaning they were able to recognise where things weren’t working early on and take steps to change it.

This is a great example of everyday learning. Even when things sucked, they took a step back to understand the reasons and put steps in place to ensure that it didn’t happen again. There is still a long way to go to help them get to a place where this all happens naturally but they are certainly on the right track. 

One of the things that the team put into place was an Agile team space. This consisted of a pod of desks for the team to sit around together and a space close by that they could use for meetings. This space is open enough to be visible in the office but they also purchased a large whiteboard on wheels that was used to enclose and create a safe space for open discussion. Using a whiteboard rather than software to log tasks has helped them to visualise the work in progress and plan more effectively. This also means that the work is visible to anyone who wants to view it.We now have a real chance to take into account some of these small changes that make a big difference and make it a great place to work.

This has given me sufficient insight into what it takes to make a great team and I have taken on many learnings myself where I missed opportunities to guide the team as well as I would have liked to. 
Transitioning to Agile ways of working within the department has been a hard task. One that I certainly took for granted given that I have used Scrum for over 5 years now. I made assumptions that everyone would enjoy working this way and that they would adapt quickly and so, at points it has certainly not worked as sucked. 

I have been able to take a step backward and review where we are in our Agile journey and will use these learning experiences to adapt the way I interact with the new Scrum team that I am going to be working with over the coming months.  Our Agile journey will be a continuous one into the unknown which is somewhat scary but also an exciting prospect. However, it is a challenge that I am looking forward to be a part of.

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Bianca Reeves

IT Business Analyst and Agile Project Manager

An IT Business Analyst and Agile Project Manager at Stannah Management Services in the UK. Passionate about Agile but in particular Scrum. Focused and committed to bringing Agile ways of working to life for project teams.