What is the Best Way to Embed Agile Values in Team Culture?

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A while ago, I collaborated with Allen Holub at the Agile: Principles, Practices and Architecture Workshop during an SDD Deep Dive conference. One thing that arose time and again during our discussions was a shared belief that Agile is both misinterpreted and misused within a lot of companies.

It’s something that I continue to see in my role as a Scrum Master, so I often find myself coaching teams on the importance of finding effective practices to define and develop their own processes for working together efficiently.

The concept of an agile team is simple in and of itself. Everything relies on the four statements of the Agile Manifesto, so you need to have these successfully operational within a company for agile teamwork to happen. But it doesn’t stop there; any work process must also feature the core agile values: communication, simplicity, feedback, respect and courage.

Expectations play a big part and it is assumed (and often tested through the hiring process) that team members will possess all the necessary competencies for work to be completed satisfactorily. And most of the time this is the case. However, many organisations forget that it is crucial for any team to have an onsite customer liaison or product owner (PO). Essentially someone who is completely aligned with the customer’s needs, which is the basis of delivering value and feedback. Because there is no value in doing something unless and until you know it is needed

The PO / customer liaison prioritises before the team begins working through the list of stories and tasks. Like birds in the V-formation, an agile team will be self-organising; leadership rotates between members and people help, nurture and motivate each other.  This way, the team becomes faster and more effective at working together.
So how do you nurture a team so that Agile becomes part of its values? To be a truly agile team you need to:

  1. Give and receive open and honest, constructive feedback;
  2. Be transparent;
  3. Respect each other; believe and demonstrate that each member of the team adds value to the work;
  4. Maintain open communication internally (team) and externally (organisation and customers);
  5. Find and implement the simplest solution that is easy to develop, maintain and most importantly change when required; and
  6. Keep a focus on Agile values by placing them core of everything so better working practices can develop.

Agility is about being flexible and responding to change; a team should therefore be able to identify and outline its own process of working through continuous adaptation.