6 signals that your agile/team culture is failing

Sometimes you can have an excellent purpose a well-defined sprint backlog, taking your retros regularly and things simply don’t seem like they're going well. At Softwaredevtools we know the problems that exist for Agile adoption, and even more, if we are talking about agile remote teams.

Working remotely is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean that it's super easy. Sometimes there is some stuff that can be more difficult if you are trying to do it remotely. But the thing is that your team can be reflecting some bad habits that you didn’t notice, but that is really the reason why your team doesn't feel comfortable or simply they aren’t giving their best.

Bad habits at work are like bad habits in life, sometimes you know that they are bad for you but you just keep doing it. Until one day the habit shows all the consequences that you just didn't expect would happen to you. Surprise! For the more that you avoid communicating or accepting that something is wrong in one way or another, this will hurt your team more than you think, and the worst part is that it can be more difficult to solve once that is late.

These are some habits that can reflect that your team culture has failures. Don’t worry, once you notice it is better than avoid it.

1. Lack of empathy:

You can perceive this when the team doesn't really talk about the problems and the conversations are superficial. The team doesn't look engaged and their performance as a team shows no improvement. The worst part is that if your team doesn’t show empathy to solve problems can be more difficult. How you can expect that they work by themselves if they can't feel empathy with their teammates?

Lack of empathy also can provoke one of the most common problems in remote teams: lack of communication. Which actually is one of the problems that could be causing all the other problems.

How you are going to plan all the sprint, have your standup, or your retros if your team doesn't communicate. Communication is difficult in remote teams and with no empathy, well it is almost impossible to obtain engagement in your team.

2. No metrics or improper metrics

Try to solve this question: Is your team obtaining the results expected? If you think: well, we are getting the job done. Well, that is not an answer, the point is that you have the metrics that actually show that you are obtaining the results that you want? For that, you need to know what you want to achieve. No metrics will take your team to an endless cycle. Finish work but never feel like they finished, because they don’t know if actually they are complying with the necessary.

But beware, having improper metrics is also a common error. For example, if you are trying to have the fastest development team and finish all your tasks in the first sprint. But if the product owner has not received the product they want to, or simply your teams are not creating value in their results, why would you want to have the fastest team?

Be careful in what, why, and how you evaluate the performance in your team and ask yourself if it is important.

Some of the best practices to evaluate if your team is going on the right path is with Retrospectives. Check out our tool for better results in remote teams!

3. No approachable team members.

Works as a remote team demands good communications and the possibility of talking with every member any time they need it ( working hours). If you are trying to manage your team and encourage empathy, but you are never available for your team. Well, it is a bad example for your team.

Working remotely can be difficult when you have some trouble and you can’t find the person that could help you, the team member will finish the work as they find appropriate with the information at hand and the results could be something that you didn’t expect. Carrying the waste of time and frustration for your team’s members.

Standups agile

4. Thinking that mistakes are bad

Agile teams have this feature of constant improvement, but it isn't possible if you don't let that your team have troubles and mistakes. They will perceive it as bad. Mistakes are necessary to find the right solution, if you fail more you will improve more.

I found this incredible paragraph in an article and I think that explains very well why you need to fail:

Develop to refactor: Failure to quickly adapt to change is not always a problem in the process, but also in the code. While there are many good practices on writing software out there in the wild, try and evaluate them in light of refactorability. Design software with a change in mind and in the future you will be your best friend.
Source: https://medium.com/@jonasdrieghe/being-agile-was-never-about-the-process-4cbcc1197a45

Changes are necessary, something that worked in the past, not necessary will be the best way to do it in the future. But you can't find the best solution if you are trying to have the answer at the first shot. You can find the answers by parts and improvement is more fruitful in this way.

5. Disempowerment of members (lack of self decisions)

Having just one person that makes all the decisions and is approving all the steps in the process can incur delays on the advance and the deliverables. This kind of behavior avoids the self-organization and cross-functionality that agile teams need to keep improving. The loss of agile culture will provoke that the work moves in silos provoking late deliveries and loss of accountability by the team.

Agile teams and even more remote ones, need to develop the capability of decides by themselves. The existence of a person that has control in agile teams is very different compared with what we know about normal teams.

Agile governance is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive. Source: https://www.agilealliance.org/resources/experience-reports/assessment-tricks-and-traps/

If you put the information and the right instructions to your team they could decide the best for your team. Not like I told you some paragraphs above (works as they think it could be), with a well-defined purpose and transparency your members will learn to respond based on what the company needs.

6. Thinking that the way you do it is better than others

Some teams adopt a methodology and think that the adoption fails when they don’t do the things exactly how the methodology says. You try to do everything following steps by step and the team doesn't get better, let me tell you something, that is wrong. Maybe for some teams will work, but, as we know agile is more a mindset than a methodology. There a principle of Agile Manifesto that talks about the importance of processes compared with the interactions:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Even if we were talking about Scrum, Lean or Kanban. Following exactly as it says, won't guarantee that everything will work perfectly because the most important of methodology adoption is the capability of using it based on your needs. Adapted to your work and find what works better for you. After all, your individuals and interactions should shape your processes and tools, not the other way around.

It is the same when you require something from your team and you expect that they do it exactly as you would do it. Letting your team work and find their best process is very important for a healthy agile adoption. There are more than one answer and your development team is the more indicated to find their own. Just make sure that they know what they need to do. Collaboration and accountability will increase if you let them work by themselves.

After all: Teams armed with capabilities across business knowledge, product thinking, technology, and operations are the ones who can deliver outcomes. Source: https://www.thoughtworks.com/insights/blog/habits-modern-digital-business?utm

Agile adoption in remote teams is not an easy task, but totally worth all the efforts. If you detect some of the past signals, be clear with your team, and talk with them. Bad communications can worsen the thing for your remote teams. Always it is time to find the best solutions and keep improving.

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In SoftwareDevTools we want that your agile adoption improves with some incredible tools for your ceremonies: