Sometimes things on an Agile team will go bad and no one can really say why. The results are not now what they once were. The code does not work. People are not getting along and deadlines are being missed. What are some of the common reasons for these types of shortcomings and what can be done about them?
- Lack of leadership training. Practices will degrade because people managers are not trained. Same old governance, same old stuff that does not make the team better. If Agile teams are self directed, someone from outside can undo all the good because they do not understand the Agile process. So make sure that everyone on the team, and who has leaders outside the team, understands and is trained on Agile methods.
- Power Point Slides. When presentations about code replace the actual code at a meeting, there is a problem. When someone is just presenting Power Point slides in place of an actual product to test or lines of code, it’s a pretty safe bet that person does not have a clue, is just mailing it in, is generally not contributing and wasting time. What should or can happen to remediate that? If a single individual is presenting that’s a problem, because everyone on the team should making the presentation. Slides say that code can’t be integrated because if it could be, that is what would be shown.
- Useless code. If the code cannot be integrated then this is not quality work. It could be a symptom of a systemic issue. Never let un-integrated code slide. Bad code is a deal breaker. If the team cannot integrate the code, stop and find out why. If you cant integrate code, then what are you doing with something that cannot be used? If the team is writing code that cannot be integrated, then that is a huge problem that has to be dealt with immediately. No team or business of any size can afford to just make work to kill time.
- Stopped doing sprints. One of the big signals that the team is on the wrong path is when they stop doing sprints and sprint plans. Without sprints and sprint planning, the work is not coordinated to the short schedule of testable deliverables that distinguish Agile from other project methods.
- Not doing retrospectives. The pressure is always to move on to the next thing on the ‘to do’ list of course, but there is another reason why teams will stop doing their retrospectives. This is a real red flag when teams stop doing retros. The team members are avoiding something. It is a sign that there is some kind of conflict the team does not want to face when they stop doing retrospectives.
- Stop doing their daily stand up meeting. Or the team stops doing stand ups in general whether daily or not. Also, if the stand up lasts too long or only the scrum master does the talking or only one person contributes, those are also symptoms of a team that may be a candidate for Agile therapy.
- Few volunteers and only one talker. If the stand up goes more than 15 minutes or the scrum master does all the talking, if work is assigned and not volunteered for, if the code cannot be integrated, any one or all of these could be a symptom of a systemic issue. Time to stop and reconsider what is missing from the process and why.
- Agile therapy. When leaders in the organization are trained and are fully familiar with the way Agile teams work, this is not generally needed. When they are not and start to undermine the Agile process with well-intentioned but unhelpful meddling, it is time for some therapy. It’s often just a matter of sitting together and re-aligning the team members and their leaders on what the original goals were and how to get back on the right track. Remove personalities and perceived agendas and deal with the work product and process in an objective way.