What do you do when you’re hired to participate in the revolution of an Agile transformation? What happens when you become another piece of a machine that’s already in motion? What’s the shopping list for any new Agile practitioner to a new organization?
Step 1: How engaged is the organization and how big is it?
It might be the case that the organization is big or small, that it’s sort-of Agile or nothing, maybe it’s a fully engaged organization with the Agile ways but people aren’t. Maybe it’s the opposite. This is key to understand where you’ll be. Define your starting point, so you can understand the ways you can take.
Step 2: What’s your role?
The Agile roles are simple, but organizations aren’t. Are you a project manager? A developer? A QA engineer? A Scrum master? A Visual designer? A solutions architect? More than one of these combined? How do you map your traditional job title to Agile? It is important that you understand what you will be contributing to in the existing Agile process. Ideally your responsibilities will be clearly defined but, as we do not live in an ideal world, you’ll have to figure these out on your own or by asking incessantly about your own boundaries. Talk to the people. Talk to your line manager. Know yourself in the new world.
Step 3: Keep a low profile and compare
Being a usurper, that is, someone who understand Agile in a specific way and sees clashing elements in the methods of implementation of your new organization, is not easy. Your responsibility is to challenge what you see, feel excited about the aspects you were frustrated about on your previous organization and, in general, create a to-do list of the aspects that you feel you can change for good. All challenges that contribute to the success of your team and organization is always a good challenge. And even more when these challenges come from a raw, new perspective before you get dragged into a routine. You’re not biased yet, hence the room for opportunity is bigger. You’re allowed to make even the craziest questions, as you don’t fully understand the processes yet.
But in order to do that, you must keep a low profile, and remain observant. Don’t lose track of anything, write down everything. Your thoughts will become your ally sooner than you think.
Step 4: Make an initial assessment and communicate it
Don’t keep these thought to yourself for long; if you feel there are things that are worth discussing right away, make an initial assessment. It’ll help you understand the logistics of your new role, give food for thought to your colleagues who are probably busy enough to not think about your concerns, and hopefully they’ll trigger healthy talks about the process itself and your own responsibilities. To provide some specifics on questions I had myself at some point:
- How do we handle handover of stories during sprint planning assigned to people who cannot attend the planning?
- How do we tackle single points of failure when it comes to permissions in the administrations software?
- What’s the naming consistency with reports?
- How do we track sprints?
- What’s the Sprint cadence?
- What do the statuses of workflows mean?
- How do we handle dependencies between stories?
- Where is the documentation and how it’s interconnected?
- Do we use templates for the user stories and bugs? If so, where are they?
- Why does “this” or “that” happen during daily stand ups?
- Why do we have stories not defined or accepted during Sprint planning? (Note: there might be good reasons!)
- Where is the acceptance criteria and definition of done and when does it get updated?
- What’s the release process and its visibility?
- How do we check team capacity?
I could go on and on, but to me these are some obvious questions that, even if for some people are evident, you need to ask, even if it feels daft or redundant. You’ll be surprised on how the answers differ depending on who you ask. And that is good, as there’s an opportunity to sync thoughts.
Step 5: Keep it personal
In the Agile way, you need to be as personable as you possibly can from minute one. Listen and observe, yes, but start talking to your team, line manager and product owners about yourself and the way you perceive things right away. You’ll be reassuring your own confidence and will help you engage in the new nature of your work smoothly. Be approachable, but do not distract. Slowly but surely. Get confident with the people progressively.
Being the usurper will feel slightly uncomfortable at first, but having initiative and being cheeky enough to be able to make as many questions as you can will be a great head start to your new role, to a potential Agile revolution and, most importantly, to provide immediate value to your new employer.