New agile teams make lots of mistakes, and if you have been a part of any agile team there are many things that the team works through to improve. Our current agile team has been together for about 6 months and we worked hard together to overcome some of the following mistakes. It is important to have consistency with the team and to have a solid process so that you can operate efficiently as a team.
- Poor communication. Our team is distributed in three locations, so communication is harder than having everyone working side by side. There have been several sprints where our communication is very good, but when we often struggle, it is mostly due to poor communication. In order to deal with this issue, we have started creating a story card that documents the requirements and then we review the story card document in a short 30 minute meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page. This seems to help solve the major communication issues in regard to what needs to be built.
- Poor planning. New agile teams need sufficient time for planning. Just because you are on an agile team, it doesn’t mean you can throw planning out the window. In fact, because you have shorter iterations, you planning needs to be a lot better. We have a planning session at the beginning of the sprint where we commit to the stories we are going to complete and add the sub tasks for the activities that need to be worked on.
- Poor estimates. New agile teams really struggle with providing estimates for stories. The first few sprints are really brutal because the resources only think about their specific tasks. Poor estimates can yield disaster for sprint velocity. Over a period of time, the agile team gets much better at estimates and the teams get it together usually after 3-4 sprints. The team will be able to consistently point a story and give it the same value.
- Disregard agile basics. It is really important to get the agile basics right. Daily stand-ups, retrospectives, and sprint planning are non-negotiable. The daily stand-up should last no longer than 15 minutes. I hear horror stories of daily stand-ups lasting 30 minutes or more and this is unacceptable. Retrospectives provide really good information. I ask my team to provide 1 thing that we can do better as a team and we try to do that well and before you know it, we have made really good progress over 6 months.
- Issues with team dynamics. New agile teams take time to come together. It is important that the team works together and collaborates. The teams who can put their ego’s aside for the benefit of the team will be much more successful. Teams need to be able to work as a unit and not work as individuals. The team needs to take advantage of individual strengths and make the most of those.
I hope your new agile teams can work through any issues that are encountered. If you can have a strong agile process and make sure every team member understands what they are responsible for and cover the agile basics, your organization will be successful.