When it comes to #Agile so much of the mindset hasn’t been “set in stone” that I find myself returning to preaching that it has to be done rather than dissecting its delicious inner workings and that’s a pity, as the more we comprehend about what it is that drives some of us towards it, the more we know about what drives some of us away from it.
For those of you reading me so that there’s another “FFS this!” type of article to share, I fully recognize how that is needed and I will put together a list of the ones that most say it such as “Agile isn’t out, you are” and “Can’t have the WoW without the WoT” etc. Meanwhile, if we’re here, we’re likely in love with it so let’s indulge in a spot of introspection.
I’ve looked at Agile and how it corresponds to Maslow’s pyramid of needs before but there’s a lot more to be explored.
One of the things I think about the most, which I think is part of its magical appeal for some of us is the intrinsic incremental nature of an Agile way of thinking. Once we “get it” the world is sliced differently. Everything is split into tidbits from tasks and tickets to the way we see anything we set our mind to do.
Where there was this extensive nebulous lake between us and the shore on the side we want to get to, stepping stones emerged. Anything from creating a new digital bank to learning how to salsa is split into the component bits to get to the goal. Of course the real magic in Agile is not in the splitting, heaven knows sequential ways of dealing with jobs to be done attempt to slice and dice too, but in the way we realize that there’s no way to serialize those bits but have to stay alert enough to grab one and be prepared to grab another that wasn’t planned.
The flexibility of not having things in line but falling into place as they make the most sense, is the true magic of #Agile and the hardest part to deal with, but here I’m contemplating the size of the job.
In #Agile we recognize morsels more easily. Whether they are increments of the overall to-do, a card or a moment in time we learn to see the smaller bits. And I think that a wondrous side effect of that is that we implicitly learn to use the shorter feedback loop to learn and, as maybe a bigger bonus, we learn to implicitly if not explicitly celebrate small victories.
I find the connection between gratitude, efficiency, feedback and Agile absolutely fascinating and it all hinges on the way we are willing to fragment things in our heads.
We all know and agree that acknowledging milestones is essential to keep us on track. From ringing a bell when a junior team member makes a sale in an 80s movie to victory dances in a Retro meeting when the demo worked, recognizing that something good has come out of our work is essential.
“Celebrate small wins” has been brought in as a concept to strengthen teams and build their sense of togetherness of course but it’s a lot more than that. Doing so is all about gratitude but done as a team practice and I can’t be more of a convert of gratitude overall – with the science undeniably showing the wellness benefits of how important it is to live in a perpetual Thanksgivings mode, it should be taught in primary schools-. If your team isn’t doing it yet as a habit, start on it yesterday, it’s transformationally awesome when it’s there and it may be at the center of it all.
Winning is so pleasurable, it’s almost addictive and over time, if a team simply gets used to chasing that collective high they will implicitly start becoming obsessed with getting feedback. They are of course chasing the positive one, so they have something to celebrate, but they will readily welcome the negative as a means to get to the one they’re after, hence taking to heart the practical value of learning.
Moreover, I think a solid “team gratitude practice” will safeguard against any sequential thinking rearing its ugly head. Once one sees the possibility of the small wins it would be inconceivable to return to the uncertainty of the 3 year Prince project.
I use bodybuilding examples all the time (and note, I say “bodybuilding” in the betterment sense available to absolutely anyone with the will to improve their physique, not the Shwartzenegger sense) but doing anything in a waterfall manner these days is like deciding to try to change your body and achieve muscle definition or lose weight and do so blindly with no feedback on progress.
It’s as if you’ve set the goal, you know it will take a whole year, you wrote down what you’ll eat and what supplements you’ll take, you decided what exact exercises you’ll do every day and then you’ve put on a bodysuit and banished all mirrors and scales only to take it off on day 365 to see the effects of your hard work.
Are they likely to be even half comparable to those of the people who used the feedback of the mirror and the scale to adjust their diet and their exercise regimen? Of course not. Are you likely to even keep going for that long in the absence of how these inputs for change would have also served as a motivator as you saw and measured small wins in how your body changes? Not really.
One exercise I do in Agile workshops for the boards to “get it”, is give everyone a scissors from the get-go and ask them what they think we’ll do with it (if you’re about to buy one of our workshops stop reading now, spoilers ahead!) then towards the end of our day take a large A4, write jobs to be done on it as a list and then turn that list into cards by simply cutting it up into each task being a piece free to move around free of pre-determined “before or after”. It’s a powerful visual and someone hilariously remarked “see? our list is not that different from the famous post-its of the designer hipsters, we only need scissors and something to glue them with”. Funny but remarkably true.
And then, of course, we celebrate the monumental win that is getting this part.
So if like many reading this, you’re looking for a way to bring your team from working in a new way to thinking in a new way, start with “team gratitude” as it drives the small post-it point home in a tangible fashion and it makes them crave feedback, withstand the unpleasant nature of keeping flexible and at the same time and also strengthens them when they share warm, positive experiences together. Better still it doesn’t need anyone’s approval or budget (other than the one for celebratory pints of course) to do.
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