(Thanks to Don for giving me some fodder for this week’s article)

I’ve written previously about my three tests for assessing agility: are we delivering value to our stakeholders early and regularly, are we progressively improving quality, and are we helping our customers, team members and key stakeholders to be awesome.

When it comes to values and principles, whichever flavor of agile you subscribe to, they all promote the importance of respect, focus, communication, learning and transparency.

But can a team embrace such values and start to deliver the benefits of increased agility if individuals within that team don’t operate in an agile manner themselves?

Let’s start with a simple example.

While working remotely, one team member sends another an e-mail requesting an update on an activity they are depending upon which had been discussed during the daily coordination meeting. The message is received by the owner of that activity, but they don’t acknowledge the message or respond in a timely manner. The first team member waits a while and then tries to contact the other team member via a persistent chat tool only to find the other team member has turned their notifications off. They are also unable to connect via a phone call. Finally close to the end of the day, the owner provides the needed update to the first team member.

On the surface, this seems to be a fairly minor breakdown in communications which often happens when team members are dispersed and possibly working on more than they can effectively juggle at one time. It might have been prevented by a combination of working agreements for intra-team communications and by the first team member using a more effective means of communication for their initial request.

But if we bring it back to the original benefits and attributes of agility, could we claim that the individuals involved are operating in an agile manner? The first team member wouldn’t perceive that the communication process was valuable and their frustration with the situation demonstrates that they weren’t made to feel awesome. Communication was clearly ineffective and one could also argue that the second team member didn’t show sufficient respect for the first team member’s time.

Scrum highlights inspection and adaptation as two of its three pillars but these are valued in other agile methods as well. But if individual team members aren’t regularly pausing to introspect on what they do and how they are doing it, how effective will their inspection and adaption be at a team level? They might be good at finding fault with others, but can they do so with themselves?

An agile team is a learning team. They build time into their work routines to learn new skills and approaches. But do individual team members invest in their own learning? Do they ensure that a little bit of each day and each week is spent learning something new?

So before you ask “How could we be more agile?“, maybe a better question to ask is “How could I be more agile?

(If you liked this article, why not pick up my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com  and on Amazon.ca  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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