Dread…that feeling of fear or great apprehension…it paralyzes most of us… we can’t move … can’t execute… we procrastinate… it paralyzes your Agile teams and your team of Agile teams (ART). Productivity goes down; spirit of the team goes down. It is, therefore, wise to address dread — sooner rather than later — because it is contagious… it can affect the whole ART. Nip this in the bud if you want to build a high-performing ART!
So… you might ask: ‘What causes dread? How do we address it?”
My collective observations from the field, top of the list, is this: The best way is to talk (have a conversation) about the situation that is causing this dread… could be one on one or with the team or team of teams. Listen and acknowledge their concerns. Look for hidden assumptions and gently challenge those; dread can be irrational … so try to put data behind the dread.
Some potential dread sources are:
1) Lack of confidence on this Lean-Agile mindset. Potential solution: Training. Already trained? Knowledge is not the same as understanding. To promote understanding, take baby steps to living the Lean-Agile mindset. Create small wins and build upon it one at a time. This is a great confidence builder.
2) Fear of failing. Potential solution: make your workplace a safe place … safe enough that people know that failure is ok and it is not a waste… we can learn from it and invest it in the future. Leading by hindsight is a very agile way of doing things. Remember Lean Startup? Fast learning feedback loop? Pivot or persevere? Yeah, failure is an option. Success and failure are two sides of the same learning coin. Either side, we gain knowledge to invest in the future. Aim for progression, not perfection.
3) The work is terrifyingly very large. Potential Solution: break it down… tear it apart… analyze it… brainstorm it with the team and other collaborators. Then synthesize it: put things together with a better understanding of the work…vision made clearer, features roadmap created, features backlog are prioritized ready to be planned for and worked on in sequence and in small batches. Now, it is no longer terrifying.
4) The team might just be tired and exhausted. Potential solution: Take advantage of the Innovation and Planning (IP) iteration. This is where teams explore their creative side without limit (hackathon anyone?). This is where they have more time to learn new things. This is a good thing…cross-training comes to mind. Having fungible resources (type E) in the ART is very ideal… they can pull work outside their domain when the situation demands it… this reduces handoff.
5) They dread writing features and stories.They probably do not know how to decompose features. They do not know how to vertically and thinly slice stories. Potential Solution: Do a workshop on how to do it…do it yourself…show them how…and use their own context (do not make up theoretical features and stories — it is boring… and they might as well have googled it up!).
There you have it. Dread is dreadful and contagious thing… address it fast! Nip it in the bud!