Agile projects involve close collaboration and very fast feedback loops. When it works, users' expectations are closely aligned to the project deliverables, and very little time is wasted on nice-to-haves or perfectionism that has no business impact. Agile done right is a thing of beauty, and economical to boot.
But agile productivity typically depends upon the quality of the team members. It requires high IQ, high EQ, and high focus. Put someone in with insufficient subject matter expertise, drive, or decision-making authority, and the team will be chasing its tail. Further, agile depends upon the impedance match between the resources and the tasks: if a team member just doesn't care, or can't stand to be in the room with another team member, close collaboration simply won't happen.
Since agile is all about flexibility and fast iterations, it would be a joke if you did not assess the members of the agile team as early and often as possible to detect and correct the problem children. Fail-fast on team assignments is a best practice.
If, as the Zen masters say, "how you do anything is how you do everything," it should be possible to detect team membership issues before the first sprint has completed. Ideally, you could do that before the first sprint has started. But how?
4 major areas for concern in agile teams
If there's a good thing about a character flaw, it's that the flaw's owner seldom realizes they have it...and they often have it on full display. You just have to know where to look. In most agile teams, there are four major areas for inspection/introspection: users, developers, consultants, and management. Here are forty things (in no particular order of importance) that set off red flags when we see them in agile teams.
- Are not engaged, interested, or motivated; are too busy with their regular jobs to participate deeply
- Are unwilling to own problems, action items, or deadlines; are unwilling to put their name to anything (particularly requirements, validation, and test scripts)
- View risk, change, and learning as problems, not ingredients
- Avoid taking on action items and deadlines; allergic to follow-through
- Display blaming behaviors and spend time on CYA activities
- Are outspoken about what they want, but are ignorant of cloud computing realities; assume that the incremental cost of a request is zero
- Seem to add delay and ambiguity to most decisions; hate cutting to the chase; unwilling to cut "Gordian knots"
- Fill meetings with inconclusive chatter; tend to magnify clearly bounded issues so that they mushroom into "boil the ocean" problems
- Are not willing to take action with incomplete information; are always trying to hedge bets
- Have ADD or are unable to read / write anything of substance
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