Can Agile Solve the Hybrid Working Model Dilemma?

There is still much debate in our industry as to whether remote/hybrid working increases or decreases productivity in the workplace. A recent article from Forbes suggests that regardless of the survey findings, the pandemic has led to permanent changes in behaviour.

I have been coaching creative teams to high performance for over 15 years, and I can testify to the fact that when teams adopt agile ways of working, they become empowered to take individual and collective responsibility for their deliverables. These teams always maintain their creativity. This commitment based approach to delivery is the vital ingredient necessary for achieving desired outcomes in our new reality that is the hybrid working model.

Agile ways of working was initially conceived to help teams continuously collaborate and deliver working software early and often for feedback. The purpose was so teams could better focus on what their customer actually needs, and discover as early as possible if course direction requires change based on that early feedback. That statement is as true today as it ever was. However, there was an unintended consequence to agility that applies perfectly to hybrid working. That same continuous collaboration and feedback loop created by agility is ideal for dispersed teams. It helps them stay connected, stay focused on individual and team goals, while regularly checking in with each other to ensure everyone remains focused and on track.

Fear of a disconnected workforce or lack of collaboration and thus stunted creativity and productivity, is often cited as the main concern of the remote/hybrid working model. Traditional centralised command and control management structures become extremely difficult to implement in this fragmented and dispersed environment. Agility on the other hand facilitates dispersed individuals and teams to create clarity on what to want to achieve (the goal), why it’s important (the need) and when it needs to complete (the schedule), without centralised and micro-managed project oversight and control. The lean element of agility ensures complete visibility of work in progress is maintained at all times. Individuals within teams take personal responsibility for their contribution to the overall teams goals. This is one of the key tenets of self organising agile teams.

It is the team who holds each other accountable for desired outcomes and work together for the greater good. This also discourages individuals chasing individual accolades at the expense of the team goals. Instead success and failure is shared and rockstars become more integrated into the team goals (which also leads to less bottlenecks). An agile culture fosters individual and collective responsibility and commitment to delivery as a core expectation of the team when continuously achieving successful outcomes.

I am an Agile Transformation Coach, Agile Consultant & Trainer specialising in agile adoption for blended remote, hybrid and onsite teams. I am educated in Coaching Psychology (MSc.) and Computer Science (BSc.). I have over 20 years’ experience helping remote/hybrid/onsite creative individuals, teams and organisations to achieve high performance in delivery.

Call me on +353832051155 or find out more at https://www.viaagile.com

I am open to hearing all potential opportunities!

and takes teams away from their core activities. The truth in fact probably lies somewhere in between.

Agility is not a process, it’s a solution to a problem. But what problem is it solving? In the early days of the internet revolution software teams struggled enormously to cope with the sea of changing requirements coming from their users. It was no longer possible to put software on a CD and deliver updates every 6-12 months. Suddenly users were presented with multiple online product choices via the internet. And if they didn’t like your product they could quickly and without friction move to a competing product. Now software teams were seeing lead times for software delivery shortening and worse still product managers were regularly changing requirements to meet the ever changing market.

So how did agility help solve that problem? Well in 2001 in a ski resort in Snowbird, Utah, a group of 17 out of shape guys asked themselves the very same question. The answer was simple, produce working software early and often for review and feedback and thus quickly plan revisions (if any) into the next short delivery cycle. The idea of short iterations, incremental delivery of working software, visualisation of work in progress and continuous collaboration between tech and business literally revolutionised how software teams built software. This idea was underpinned by 12 Principles, 4 Values and the famous Agile Manifesto. (Btw pure coincidence it was guys only. Normally the same group was made up of luminaries such of Lyssa Atkins and Mary Poppendieck. But it just happened they did not attend on the one weekend the agile manifesto was written and signed).

So the answer is simple, implement agile? Well as many of us know there is a famous saying in the agile world; “agile is easy to learn but difficult to master”. And just like learning to play a new sport, just being a great athlete won’t make you great at that sport. Only a commitment to practice and perfecting your art will make you great. This is where many organisations struggle with agile. We implement the elements of agility that are relatively easy like attending ceremonies, using agile tools like Jira or delivering in 2 week cycles. But we might ignore more difficult elements like continuous planning, writing stories that can be completed in a sprint, producing working software for review at the end of a sprint and ofcourse committing to a sprint goal and achieving that goal at the end of the sprint. Also when teams move from traditional waterfall methods and project management focus to agile ways of working, often the art of planning gets lost. There is a myth around agility that planning is not needed. It’s quite the opposite. Because in an agile world we expect change, we even embrace it (within reason, if we cant plan a 2 week sprint without making significant change, we may have a planning challenge). Hence we must continuously plan. The heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson famously once said “everyone has a plan for me until they get punched in the face”.  Meaning everyone has an upfront plan for him when they step into the ring. But once that first crushing blow to the head comes in, you better be able to adapt your plan to cope with your new reality. Ie stop letting Mike hit you so often and still win the fight 😊. We need an upfront plan but we expect and accept it may change, while still achieving our original goal in a sustainable and predictable manner.

As an Agile Coach it is my job to work with individuals, teams and the wider organisation to help you identify what problems agile can potentially solve for you. Identify your goals for agile adoption if you like. We then work together to plot a realistic path to achieving those goals. The coaching business has this pertinent question it always asks “How do you boil the ocean?”. Answers on a postcard please…The answer is simple and realistic; “one kettle full at a time”. You will not adopt agile ways of working overnight. It’s a journey and not a destination. How successful you become at it equates directly to how much effort you put into practicing it. It’s that simple.

In my experience the easiest and most achievable change all teams can begin to make straight away is –  WHAT YOU PULL INTO IN THE SPRINT, YOU FINISH IN THAT SPRINT. This is the start and the end of everything agile. If you can get good at this, everything else becomes easier. If however you cannot finish what you pull into a sprint, you will struggle with many other aspects of agile ways of working. Think of it as your ‘kettle full’. Achieve this and you are on your way to exciting and delighting your users, customers and partners while doing so in a sustainable, predictable and repeatable manner.

I look forward to accompanying you on your great agile journey, one kettle full at a time 😊

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