We all know that being Agile means having the ability to inspect and adapt, and responding to change quickly and as effectively as possible, not affecting the predictability of our work outcome. Or at least that is the utopia or aspiration. Now, what happens when the team needs to deal with something that goes beyond just work? What if a colleague leaves the company?
It’s not just the fact that a resource has been lost (and can eventually be replaced), but what that loss means beyond productivity. How does the team feel about it? What can the leaver do in order to mitigate the impact? Agile coaching is all about team synergy, approachability, transparency and feelings. It’s about the good emotions in the work environment that pay off in form of productivity and delivery.
To me, it all comes down to personal liability and ethics. The reason behind this post is that I am about to leave the company I’ve been working in for almost four years, and I am the development team Scrum master. I will talk in detail about the concept of a bad exit at some point, but in this case I leave due to a really great professional opportunity that I could just not refuse. But I am the person that began it all in terms of Agile coaching to the team, championed the process, with the obvious support of everyone else in the company and especially the development team. And I do genuinely care about what’s going to happen from now onwards, and as concerned about the emotional impact on the team as on myself. In a way, it’s like I have a conflicted feeling about leaving my children on their own so they can spread their wings. About letting go. About delegation.
The big question here is: what should my personal response be to the team regarding my leave? What attitude?
The Agile manifesto tells us that we need to focus in individuals and trust. This is one of the parts that I personally like the most about Agile, as I am a strong advocate of personal liability in every form, surrounded by supportive team members that will help me achieve the best of myself not just in technical expertise, but also in my professional ethics. It’s pure common sense.
I believe there’s a lot to do on a personal level when you leave a company, maybe even more than the objective professional actions. Because if you’re a good professional, regarding of your role or expertise, you will want to leave things as good as you possibly can. And if it’s in your power, even better; a typical boy scout approach. You should care about the people you leave behind as much as the company if not more. You’ve bled with them after all.
A contract is just that, a contract. The people you’ve worked with, struggled with, celebrated successes with, failed with … should be part of your exit agreement clauses, even if these only exist in your brain and conscience. People are, essentially, what you remember the most when you leave a job. You remember how good it was working with them, how much you learnt from them (and hopefully them from you), but with some exceptions you do not remember the details, just the feelings.
Honouring the people that helped you being a better professional, the will to help a peer colleague goes beyond the legal boundaries of contract. Because it’s about synergy and feelings. And that is exactly how I feel in this very moment as I type this post.
Despite it is indeed part of your professional responsibilities to complete a plan of handover actions (and not every person truly understands this bit), I consider that plat the MVP of leaving with a minimum of dignity, shaking hands and thanking everyone for the good work done, the opportunity given and the satisfaction of leaving in good terms. The ABC of ending a professional relationship. But what does it take to make it even better?
Some quick tips based on my recent experience:
- Offer positivity and good attitude.
- Try to keep a good personal relationship with everyone (when possible).
- Offer your help and support to them even when you’re no longer employed there.
- Keep the door open to personal relationships, but not just mouth-word. Act on it.
You must do all this genuinely; rehearsed manners never work in this aspect.
And, of course, leave your desk with your mind at ease. Knowing that the very next day your team, your friends, your colleagues will go on without their professional duties awfully affected by your leave. That is one of the biggest satisfactions you can ever have in your professional life.
Ethics and liability towards a company that’s treated you personally and professionally well, and most importantly, the people within it, are your priority. That, to me, is the difference between being a good professional and a great professional from an ethical point of view.
By doing all this, the achievement goes way beyond personal satisfaction. It proves you are kind, that you care. It’s not a pose, it’s real. And serves the purpose of the Agile manifesto in many forms: support, need and trust to your team, promoting self-organization, cross-functionality, and promoting efficiency and behaviour adjustment.
I don’t know for sure what future lies ahead for me, but I will inspect and adapt in the Agile way. What’s for sure is that I will never forget the days with this amazing team of professionals I leave behind and that, honestly, will always be part of me. And because I am thankful, I will always be there for them, beyond any legally binding contract.