Saturday, 3 December 2011

Softskills for Agile

First time I heard of Agile, I didn’t have a clue as to what it was. I thought, as the name suggests, it should be something to do with getting your work done faster! Later when my friend took me through the entire cycle of Scrum, did I realize that this is a very helpful tool for all individuals working as teams in organizations. In short, it was for everybody and anybody who wanted to evolve not only as professionals, but also as individuals.
However, I was surprised to know that Agile had failed in some organizations. Reason was, the same human factor, which had made it successful was creating obstacles for its smooth functioning. That’s where my friend needed my help. At the end of the day after training teams on the Agile methodology, when he saw that there were problems and gaps in the process, it hurt him. It was like his baby was not well, and he couldn’t do anything about it!
When asked, he said,” Communication!”. Either people don’t want to or don’t know how to communicate.
Communication is an art, a tool, a weapon. It behaves the way you treat it. If you know how to control it, you can mould your life the way you want. But, if you don’t, then rest assured, the world will shape your life for you.
Though we all start communicating from day one of our lives, we need help as we grow older! Isn’t it ironical that with age and experience should come mastery, instead, we become even more incompetent!
There are numerous obstacles in communicating smoothly; however, attitude takes the cake. All types of attitudes, fear, ego, jealousy, presumptions, good Samaritan, and so on. People go to great lengths to hide data, information, incompetency, emotions. Main reasons for this are fear of losing face and fear of losing power.
When we talk of Agile, the problem arises when the team is not in sync with each other as well as with the PO. Either there are some misunderstandings within the team, or between the team and the PO. There is a chasm between the demand from the PO and the supply from the team and both refuse or are incapable of understanding the other’s point of view.
Both need to understand that this difference of opinion is because they are handling different domains. The team is passionate about the functionality whereas the PO is bothered about the ROI. Instead of locking horns, if they can educate each other on the ‘musts’ of each other’s domain, they can spell success. The problem is there are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘butts’ involved. IF only you move away from this one ‘BUT’, you’ll realize that it’s actually not so bad. What it takes is a bit of tolerance and the urge to learn something new, not only about another domain, but also about yourself.
The Scrum master has a very important role to play in the success of Agile. He is like the conductor of an orchestra. He has a team of highly talented individuals who know their parts well, however, they need him there to make sure they function as ONE. His guidance and knowledge makes sure they give the audience a symphony and not a racket!

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