Agility requires continuous improvement enabled by multiple inspection and adaptation cycles. Working with many teams in an Agile environment, I can say that I didn’t see two teams that need exactly the same set of practices and rules on they way to the Performing stage. 

While adopting an Agile methodology 100% is a good starting point, not adapting it to our specific context and needs is a sure way to generate frustration and to limit team’s productivity. My job, as an Agile coach, is not to force the team to apply Scrum or Kanban or XP. My job is to understand teams’ needs and help them identify and mix those Agile practices that empower them to unlock their best potential. 

We – Agile coaches – are often asked for help to organize different kind of workshop sessions with the teams. The trigger for their request is usually represented by poor results, unstable velocity or customer dissatisfaction. When teams face one of these situations, they usually ask for a product discovery workshop, a refresh of the agile knowledge or a reinforcing of the Agile processes. I avoid jumping in a conclusion that they really need that kind of workshop until I truly understand they context. 

Let’s take a real life example. 

Unhappy with they results, a team asked for a product discovery workshop. After addressing few upfront questions, I realized very fast that their poor and unpredictable velocity is not caused by uncertainty on the product level; it was the foundation that was actually missing – the absence of trust on the team level (Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a team).

Lencioni's 5 Dysfunctions of a team
Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a team

This simple, yet powerful model illustrated above is my main inspiration when I try to identify the context of a team. Instead of searching for new tools & practices that help us work faster and have better results, we’d better analyze if any of the levels below are violated and start from there. 

So, instead of organizing a 2-day product discovery workshop, I came up with another idea. 

Here you can find my structure: 

1) Build on trust 

  • Talk about my outstanding value and why it’s important for me
  • Share my hot button/trigger, my reaction and the impact on the team

This exercise helps us to understand the differences between us and explains various behaviors in the team. 

2) Build on product 

  • Define the product vision 
  • Define the product mission 

This exercise is essential for a self-organizing teams. If we want our teams to self-organize, they need to have a strong vision and mission to keep them focused and provide a sense of purpose to self organize around. 

3) Build on process 

  • Define working agreements together
  • Review roles, responsibilities and expectations 

This exercise helps us to start from our actual needs and expectations, instead of enforcing some theoretical methods. We start from what we have, and improve from it. 

And remember, it’s a journey, not a destination. Performing stage requires continuous improvement and evolution.