Old habits and agility don’t mix!

Sat 30 Jun 2018

Information sharing plays a key role in the success of any project. This statement is especially true in the case of agile projects, especially those that apply the Scrum method.  The latter forces the teams (marketing, IT, processes, etc.) to shatter silos. Trust, transparency and communication are the key points of the approach that businesses often struggle with.

Work methods rooted in habits but at odds with agility

Despite the many efforts and goodwill of everyone involved, old habits die hard and constantly re-emerge, especially in times of crisis. Even within the most “agile” projects, there are differences in the way people work and communicate. For example, we regularly oppose professional specialisations: IT vs Marketing or Process Expert vs IT, for instance. Many teams continue to maintain multiple email and Excel files as their main collaboration tools; and there are teams whose members perceive themselves more as independent contributors even though they are identified as full members of the core team.

Agility needs proximity and shared values

Don’t worry, this resistance to change is perfectly natural. It is often reinforced by the geographical distance between participants and the desire to be instantly “effective” while underestimating the issues related to team interactions. What is important as an agile team is to promote direct communication. It is therefore strongly recommended to reduce the geographical distance between the different members of an agile project as much as possible.

From the outset, this rapprochement between different specialisations should give rise to a sense of common purpose.  Proximity should also foster a greater sense of common purpose as the project progresses and as ideas are validated (or not). It is this sharing of values that will stimulate the team’s dynamism and efficiency. It is therefore essential to take the time at the start to lay the foundations: the actors involved in the project must define together a certain number of values that will enable everyone to fully commit themselves. This sharing of values, meaning and objectives should be reflected in everyone’s attitude, in development cycles (Sprint), but also in communication with others outside the team.

Information Sharing: Don’t neglect agile tools and ceremonies

Moreover, with the Scrum method, it is advisable to centralise the information in one or two tools that are shared by everyone in order for them to have a common vision of the project’s progress. By applying these good practices, the Scrum team is in a position to avoid a clash between the objectives of the Sprint method versus the objectives of each department. It also reduces application processing times and the loss of information. Team members must trust each other and develop the proper habits and take the right decisions to achieve common goals together.

Remember to make it a point of honour that everyone participate assiduously in the “daily scrum” ceremony. This will facilitate communication within the team and give more visibility to the difficulties encountered by everyone. Feel free to agree together on your own rules and means of communication. Even if people do not commit immediately, you should persevere. Ask yourself regularly if everyone has the same understanding of the agile approach and how the project is going. And if this is not the case, it is important that it be reported at the retrospectives. You will then have to think together about measures that will allow you to improve as a team.

I encourage teams who want to start an agile project to draw on the expertise of an agile coach. They will be able to detect points for improvement very quickly. It will also help you think about concrete measures to improve the team’s own functioning…

In conclusion, remember that being agile means focusing on people and their interactions rather than on processes. It is the way you work and communicate with others that will make your team a truly agile team.

*Daily scrum: meeting of 15 minutes maximum recommended as part of the Scrum method


Marie Louis

Digital Marketing Consultant