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4 warning signs that your team is not agile

David Taber | May 12, 2015
Agile projects get the most out of people, with huge payoffs in productivity and effectiveness. But you have to choose those people carefully to avoid blow-ups.

Developers who...

  • Are unwilling to pursue rough-cut solutions
  • Suffer from perfectionism
  • Are over-focused on architecture and software longevity
  • Focus on avoiding criticism rather than getting something out there
  • Are too willing to code first and ask questions later
  • Have poor communication skills, particularly under stress
  • Detest / lack empathy for users
  • Lack project management skills or have an empty-suit manager
  • Are afraid and indecisive
  • Are unable to listen

Consultants who are...

  • Displaying bid-to-win behaviors, are desperate to win a deal or keep the account (hint to clients: interview their CTO about the bid)
  • Too flexible, too compliant, willing to make commitments they cannot really meet (hint to clients: watch out for cultural differences)
  • Unable to deliver "bad news" quickly and effectively (ditto)
  • Unable to say no and make it stick (ditto)
  • Unwilling to take charge in an uncertain situation
  • Unable to listen
  • Unable/unwilling to respond to requests the same day (hint to clients: get an SLA)
  • "Yes men" / empty suits
  • Overemphasizing speed and volume of coding, underemphasizing building the right thing
  • Unwilling to be on site (or at least in the same time zone as the rest of the team)

Management that is...

  • Unwilling to actively participate in the project, as well as champion it
  • Excessively focused on command-and-control, requiring all key decisions to be escalated; unable/unwilling to trust or truly delegate
  • More focused on budget than value; overly interested in narrowly-defined metrics; limited attention span for broad objectives
  • Exhibiting ADD or memory issues
  • Willing to promote someone who really doesn't know the domain and doesn't want to learn it
  • Rewarding fierce intramural competition, so leaders have clear incentives to low-ball budgets, over-promise deliverables, and play games with milestones
  • Holding people accountable but not giving them control of resources.
  • Using fear as a management tool, and publically punishing failure
  • Unwilling to unequivocally prioritize, set realistic deadlines, or acknowledge tradeoffs; unwilling to filter the signal from the noise
  • During contract negotiation, adds unrealistic conditions and asymmetric risk items

The bottom line
There's no scoring system here -- but if you detect enough of the issues outlined above in a team member, seriously consider replacing him/her fast. If you detect enough of the issues in the management area, it's not likely that agile is going to be a success within that part of the organization.

 

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