People - Not Process - Are the Key to Success With Agile

agile leadership agile teams collaboration

By Julie Springer

April 21, 2022

When Agile Isn't Working

What do you do if “Agile isn’t working” for your teams? What if the process just isn’t coming together, people don’t understand it (or won’t follow it) and you are not getting the results you hoped for? This is a frustrating and stressful position to be in. You have invested a lot of time and effort in building Agile teams and you are not sure you will meet your goals with the way things are going.

Seeking a Fix to the Process

It’s common to focus on fixing the process. Maybe you read up on scrum and kanban. You pay for training and create documentation about the roles and the meetings. You look for better tools to support the process.

In my experience as an Agile coach, I have learned that all of these valiant efforts to fix the process problem will not succeed until you fix the people problem.

That’s because the REAL key to success with Agile is not in process, but in people - in human interactions. If you move forward with a process improvement without addressing relationships and how people communicate, it is doomed to fail.

Once you address the people problem, the process problems are easy to fix. 

A Better Approach - Bringing People Together to Collaborate

At Conduo, we use a collaborative approach for everything we do. We bring people together in collaborative sessions, using visual tools and facilitation methods to create psychological safety, engagement and participation.

Once people start working together differently, hearing each other, seeing and valuing the perspectives and input from everyone involved, the magic happens. Process improvements become easy because the real barrier has been addressed. People are now open and willing to learn a new way of doing things.

Here’s an example:
We are working with an organization struggling to get an automation project back on-track.

  • They don’t have a clear vision for how to move forward with the project.
  • The business leaders are frustrated because they don’t understand what the development team is working on - they don’t know when anything will get done and it feels like chaos.
  • The development team feels that their good work is not valued and that they are not getting the direction and information they need to be successful.

From a process perspective, this is not a hard problem to solve. Improvements like establishing basic Agile planning processes at the project and team level and clarifying roles and responsibilities will make a big difference.

However, before recommending any changes to the process, we brought the business leader, automation lead and the developer together for a series of meetings. We facilitated collaborative activities to gather information and visualize the current process, identify challenges and brainstorm solutions.

The information we got out of these sessions was helpful, but the breakthrough was the shift in the relationship between the business leader and the development team. Having a safe space to share their perspectives and understand each other opened the door to making changes.

The following week, the business leader reported that things were getting “much better” and that they had already made some small improvements to their weekly meetings. He was feeling hopeful, excited and ready to take on our recommended process improvements. 

Willing and Ready to Make the Change

I believe that if we would have jumped into making changes to the process before spending time addressing the relationship issues, we would have encountered resistance. Instead, the group is now willing and ready to change because they are starting to build trust and are working together to improve the process.

Try this for yourself! Download our free guide, “How to Use Discovery to Focus Your Agile Teams on Solving the Right Problems” for step-by-step instructions on how to bring people together in a collaborative way, so that the process changes actually work.

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