Nine Things to do When Nobody on Your New Team Knows Lean-Agile

Last month I looked at what to do when everybody on the team says they know Lean-Agile. This month I look at what to do when nobody on your new team knows Lean-Agile.

There is a big caveat on this. I’ll be talking about what I typically do when I form a team. You have to bear in mind I have certain advantages compared to many people wanting to introduce Lean-Agile:

  1. I have a lot of experience with Lean-Agile
  2. With many high profile successes
  3. Organisations specifically bring me in to help them do Lean-Agile and achieve success

I don’t have to convince management of the need for change and the benefits of Lean-Agile. I arrive with a management endorsement to change the way things are done. But I do have to convince the team and particularly I have to convince them to try my flavour of Lean-Agile rather than others.

So what I do is:

  1. Arm wave
  2. Bring in Lean-Agile contractors
  3. Recruit local champions
  4. Mix it up
  5. Use a Lean-Agile coach
  6. Educate
  7. Learn by doing
  8. Evolve
  9. Succeed

1. Arm wave

I love Lean-Agile. I love talking about it. Explaining it. Using it. So given half a chance I’ll enthuse about it. Just ask any of my teams. Or my wife. 🙂

Enthusiasm helps but I back it up with explanations of why I do what I do. I’ll take any opportunity to explain. Desk side conversations. Car rides to get coffee. Impromptu presentations in a meeting room. If there are changes I need to happen, and a chance to explain why, I’ll start “arm waving”.

“Arm waving” is the term I use for my enthusiastic explanations including a lot of pacing, drawing on white boards, and talking with my hands. I do a lot of arm waving.

I explain what I do but I also have to explain why I don’t do other things. For example, I’m often asked why I don’t do Scrum or why I no longer develop in Sprints. So I explain why. More arm waving.

I remember from my teacher training is that on average a person needs 14 exposures to a new idea before it sinks in. So if people ask the same question again, I’ll happily repeat the answer. Perhaps using a different slant so it might lands more securely this time. Every time they hear me enthuse or explain on a topic is one more exposure.

2. Bring in Lean-Agile contractors

It helps if I’m not alone when championing Lean-Agile. Luckily I always seem to have a budget for contractors so I make sure at least some of the senior contractors have a strong Lean-Agile background. In particular I bring in developers with good automated testing skills.

3. Recruit local champions

Externals are good but it is even better if there are internal advocates for change. So I find and encourage local champions. This might be people with existing Lean-Agile experience but what I’m really after is enthusiasm. People who share the vision and will encourage others to change.

4. Mix it up

So I’ve got some local champions, some experienced externals, and a bunch of people who are more lukewarm. I mix them up. Make sure those who are lukewarm are near somebody – either organisationally or physically – who is an advocate of of Lean-Agile. Again this is a way to get those exposures and increase the likelihood of embedding change.

5. Use a Lean-Agile coach

I’m a fan of using a Lean-Agile coach during team formation. It helps to have more than one “expert” reciting the same message. Of course I vet the coach first to ensure our views on Lean-Agile are aligned. Conflicting messages would not help.

Once I trust the coach I can bounce my own ideas for innovation off them. And of course they do the normal coaching thing of facilitating collaborative change.

6. Educate

One thing I often get the coach to do is face-to-face training. If there is something that a handful of people need to know I may as well organise a course. Then back it up with arm waving and coaching. Typically I’ll get them to run courses on Agile, Kanban, and BDD.

7. Learn by doing

My approach to process change is to lead a team through the change. Listening to people explain and enthuse, individual coaching, face-to-face training are all well and good but my teams learn by doing.

8. Evolve

I always start with a version of “Steven’s Lean-Agile”. My standard process modified by local conditions. From there the process evolves in a collaborative fashion. The formal aspect of this is retrospectives but evolution happens more informally as well. Pretty quickly the team is no longer doing “Steven’s Lean-Agile” they have got a version of their own.

9. Succeed

The most effective drive for change is to succeed. Success is addictive. With a success using the new approach under their belt the team is more likely to embed the change and look to repeat that success.

What if everybody knows Lean-Agile

As I mentioned last month, I don’t believe it when everybody on the team says they know Lean-Agile. So I don’t see much difference between everybody says they know Lean-Agile and when nobody knows Lean-Agile. Some things get harder and some things get easier, but it is the same approach. Same activities. Same nine things.

This post is part of my What do I do When … ? series. Please drop me a line or add a comment if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.

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