February 4, 2021

Fostering Accountability in Agile – Tips from Agile Team Coach

Tips from Agile team coach
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When you're overseeing IT operations, you’re used to holding your Product Owners and Scrum Masters responsible for delivery. This should hold true even when your teams are new to running agile. It's the role of an agile team coach or mentor to instil this in them from the start. 

It’s the responsibility of the Scrum Master in their turn to nurture accountability among their teams. A positive work culture is born through better engagement and motivation. Ultimately, a higher quality software product is delivered, earlier, compared to a team who don’t feel responsible. 

So, make sure to install accountability to improve the overall company culture. In short, making it a requirement on all levels is needed when striving for great leadership. 

Read on for advice from Mike Wallace, one of our Product Owners, on how to achieve the right culture.  

Team Culture 

Mike describes the best team culture as one where everyone has respect for each other and there is a sense of comradery. The team needs to be a safe space so that there’s freedom to be creative, and members are ready to challenge and be challenged in a constructive way. 

If the team is not a safe space, being challenged is often taken personally. Also, challenging someone will seem like a hostile thing to do, so members may seek to avoid it. Both of these issues mean that the true problems do not get identified or addressed. 

Barriers to Accountability 

In Mike’s experience, a team will be held back from being responsible when they're dictated to in exactly how to deliver. This hampers their sense of ownership, which in turn means they will not feel responsible for the results, whether positive or negative.

If you get dictated every step of a task, it will feel less personal, and you are more likely to not succeed. 

Just like you wouldn’t tell a mechanic what to do to your car and exactly how to do it, you shouldn’t do the same to your team. Give them space on the fine details and let them use their abilities. That ensures they’re using their problem-solving skills. It also makes sure that you keep your eyes on the big picture. 

Tools for Enabling Accountability 

Mike says that he likes to set up a team contracting session, which is essentially a “how we work together” session. This includes discussing working agreements, Definition of Done, sprint cycles structure, review, and retro discussion. The team decides together what is best for them, so do not dictate what you think is best for them. Get participation from everyone.

All this gets documented so that it can be referenced by anyone at any time. 

The session also ensures that everyone has asked for what they need, and they've been provided that. Any barriers to delivery are identified and removed. 

Improving Predictability of Delivery 

All these practices work towards a common goal: delivery. To other departments in the company and the upper management, delivery is all they will see, and they will need to be given a reliable estimates of delivery.

If you wish to optimise the predictability of delivery, you base the estimations on existing data but you also need to keep reviewing the data that comes in. Historical data is not perfect prediction of the future but the most accepted forecast of productivity.

It's important that the velocity of the team is known for estimations to have any hope of being accurate. If this is where the team stumbles, the foundations of their performance haven't been built properly. 

Not everyone can be a transformation expert, even if they have great technical skill, so agile adoption won't always be a success without external expertise. You can still fix delivery by providing an agile team coach.

Interested in learning more? Contact us.

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