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    October 19, 2022

    Trick or Treat: Monsters on the Agile Team, and What to Do About Them

    Shocking turns, mixed with constant fear and dread.

    Does that remind you of the latest horror flick you streamed or your agile ceremonies?

    Sadly, it is all too common for a few individuals to spoil what should otherwise be a rewarding adventure. For these teams, it’s the agile equivalent of those ill-fated camp counselors contending with Jason in Friday the 13th.

    With Halloween looming, here’s an introduction to some of the monsters that can be stifling your agile journey, and some tips for making these would-be villains a little less troublesome.

    The Agile Grim Reaper

    You know this person well. They might even sit on your team. The grim reaper is the person who tries to kill agility journeys with constant negativity and criticism of agile practices. I often see reapers rear their heads when roles are shifting from a traditional organization to a new way of doing things. Maybe a title has changed, maybe they despise agile events. Or maybe they’re one of those toxic, so-called high performers who thinks agile will steal all their individual thunder. Be assured, they’re always disgruntled about something.

    How to Combat the Agile Grim Reaper

    Look into getting an amazing scrum master or agile coach, one who can tell powerful stories and is armed with experience from companies all over the world. Hopefully you can find one internally who has the chops to combat your grim reapers. If not, please email us— we can help!

    The Zombie Agile Coach

    Certified in a framework or two? Check. Prior experience as a coach, scrum master, or even an agile team member? Nope.

    Zombies know just enough to be dangerous, and they only know how to follow a recipe, not the knowhow to adapt the framework to the context of your organization. Beware of these so-called coaches with no hands-on experience. A certification gives one a platform on which to build, but zombies won’t know how to address the complexities of an enterprise organization. They’re just going on blind instinct rather than the proven success patterns that can only be honed through experience.

    How to Combat Zombies

    You know the answer already—find an experienced coach or scrum master. Certifications are fine for what they test, but they’re no substitute for the battle wounds and triumphs of a seasoned coach. If you’re seeking to gain more experience for yourself, find a scrum master or coach to shadow. Learn from them, paying extra attention to how they run a retrospective. If they can’t run one well and help the team focus on continuous improvement, keep looking.

    The Phantom Leader

    The gnarliest of all our monsters, the phantom leader drops in and out at their heart’s desire. They seem to disappear when their help is needed most, only to reappear when things are on the upswing. Agile leaders have a wide and important remit. They’ve got to be around when teams need them, whether to clear blockers or provide some air cover.

    How to Combat Phantoms

    Through direct and kind communication, tell phantoms the truth about needing them when times are rough. It might make all the difference if they’re currently unaware of their responsibilities to agile teams.

    Key Takeaways

    To take some of the fear and dread out of your work day, take these steps:

    1. Identify those lurking monsters. They take many shapes and sizes.
    2. Be deliberate about finding a solution. If a coach or scrum master will help solve some of the issues, be thoughtful when choosing others who will assist in your agile journey.
    3. Give and receive feedback. Illuminating reapers, zombies, and phantoms is tough. Seek help from a seasoned coach. If you don’t know where to look for help, please contact us.

    Marie Kalliney

    Marie works with clients to ensure their business strategies are positioned to sense and respond to the market. She also works with technology teams, ensuring their mindset and practices are aligned and optimized to deliver efficiently for business outcomes. Marie has pioneered the application of agile principles and...

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