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Auditing struggling teams

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  • Scott
    Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile team that worked under her.  I agreed to do an audit of the team and coach them into
    Message 1 of 8 , Feb 3, 2010
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      Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile team that worked under her.  I agreed to do an audit of the team and coach them into better health.  
      I’ve got a good idea of how I want to go about auditing the team and its practices, principles and values, but I thought I might cast a net out and reel in the wisdom of this group.  Certainly some of you have dealt with this before.
       
      My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone on the team into a room and starting with a retrospective.  This should light the path and focus further work during the day.  Some questions:
       
      Are there other valuable approaches?
      What retrospective techniques or exercises have you found particularly valuable with struggling teams?
      What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile audits with struggling teams?
       
      -          Regards,
      Scott Killen
      Founder & President of Agile Austin 
      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
    • Steve Ropa
      I like what Ron said when someone asked for what question would you ask a team that was just starting to move to Agile. How s it going? Ask them that, and
      Message 2 of 8 , Feb 3, 2010
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        I like what Ron said when someone asked for what question would you ask a
        team that was just starting to move to Agile. "How's it going?"

        Ask them that, and listen carefully to the answers they give. Watch the
        direction the conversation goes and see where the pain points are.

        Just my $.02

        Steve
        --------------------------------------------------
        From: "Scott" <swk@...>
        Sent: Wednesday, February 03, 2010 10:28 AM
        To: <scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com>
        Subject: [scrumdevelopment] Auditing struggling teams

        > Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile team
        > that worked under her. I agreed to do an audit of the team and coach them
        > into better health.
        > I’ve got a good idea of how I want to go about auditing the team and its
        > practices, principles and values, but I thought I might cast a net out and
        > reel in the wisdom of this group. Certainly some of you have dealt with
        > this before.
        >
        > My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone on the
        > team into a room and starting with a retrospective. This should light the
        > path and focus further work during the day. Some questions:
        >
        > Are there other valuable approaches?
        > What retrospective techniques or exercises have you found particularly
        > valuable with struggling teams?
        > What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile audits with
        > struggling teams?
        >
        > - Regards,
        > Scott Killen
        > Founder & President of Agile Austin
        > Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > To Post a message, send it to: scrumdevelopment@...
        > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
        > scrumdevelopment-unsubscribe@...! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • George Dinwiddie
        Scott, If the team is struggling, then how much confidence do you have that they ll be able to bring up the important issues in a retrospective? I would go
        Message 3 of 8 , Feb 3, 2010
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          Scott,

          If the team is struggling, then how much confidence do you have that
          they'll be able to bring up the important issues in a retrospective?

          I would go with doing a bunch of one-on-one interviews with a broad
          cross-section of the team and surrounding organization. You might find
          http://blog.gdinwiddie.com/2008/11/09/aye-2008-unearthing-the-data-you-need/
          and
          http://ayeconference.com/wiki/scribble.cgi?read=InterviewTipsandTrapsforAssessments
          useful.

          - George

          Scott wrote:
          > Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile
          > team that worked under her. I agreed to do an audit of the team and
          > coach them into better health. I’ve got a good idea of how I want to
          > go about auditing the team and its practices, principles and values,
          > but I thought I might cast a net out and reel in the wisdom of this
          > group. Certainly some of you have dealt with this before.
          >
          > My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone on
          > the team into a room and starting with a retrospective. This should
          > light the path and focus further work during the day. Some
          > questions:
          >
          > Are there other valuable approaches? What retrospective techniques or
          > exercises have you found particularly valuable with struggling teams?
          > What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile audits
          > with struggling teams?
          --
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          * George Dinwiddie * http://blog.gdinwiddie.com
          Software Development http://www.idiacomputing.com
          Consultant and Coach http://www.agilemaryland.org
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        • Don Gray
          Scott, Do you work in the same organization as the manager and team? What do you do when you audit a team? ... I like to watch the team and review their
          Message 4 of 8 , Feb 3, 2010
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            Scott,

            Do you work in the same organization as the manager and team?

            What do you do when you audit a team?

            > Are there other valuable approaches?

            I like to watch the team and review their artifacts. Walk lightly. Build
            trust. Encourage simple small experiments. This might be helpful:
            http://www.stickyminds.com/BetterSoftware/magazine.asp?fn=cifea&id=100

            And be sure to come to Agile Coach Camp in March to let us know how
            things turn out. http://wiki.agilecoachcamp.org/tiki-index.php

            --
            Don Gray (336)414-4645
            http://www.donaldegray.com

            Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening.
            Barbara Tober

            Break tradition at the AYE Conference Nov 7-11, 2010
            AYE: Exploring Human Systems in Action http:\\www.AYEconference.com
          • Alan Dayley
            ... To me audit is a very command and control sort of term. - An accounting audit is a check for mistakes, missing information and malfeasance. - A tax audit
            Message 5 of 8 , Feb 3, 2010
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              On Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 10:28 AM, Scott <swk@...> wrote:
              > Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile team that worked under her.  I agreed to do an audit of the team and coach them into better health.
              > I’ve got a good idea of how I want to go about auditing the team and its practices, principles and values, but I thought I might cast a net out and reel in the wisdom of this group.  Certainly some of you have dealt with this before.
              >
              > My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone on the team into a room and starting with a retrospective.  This should light the path and focus further work during the day.  Some questions:
              >
              > Are there other valuable approaches?
              > What retrospective techniques or exercises have you found particularly valuable with struggling teams?
              > What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile audits with struggling teams?
              >

              To me "audit" is a very command and control sort of term.

              - An accounting audit is a check for mistakes, missing information and
              malfeasance.
              - A tax audit is not something that can be avoided nor is it pleasant
              and has dire consequences.
              - I know very few people who welcome a visit of anyone with the word
              "auditor" in their title.

              Using that term in this context feels like one is going to step in,
              scrutinize every action and practice, tell all the things wrong and
              provide all the answers. That would not be Agile. I can imagine
              extreme cases where such may be necessary but that would be
              exceptional.

              Starting with a retrospective is a good thing. I think, though, that
              some skills of trust and honesty may be missing. Coming in with an
              "Auditor" badge will not help! The team may need to learn some basic
              skills before they can make the retrospective productive enough to
              help.

              I would start with nearly silent observation of a sprint, or just a
              first few days of one, right at the transition point between sprints.
              For example, attend the Sprint Review, Retrospective and Planning just
              to see and maybe ask a few questions. Then, start filling in the gaps
              of knowledge and practices that appear to be present.

              - Do they know how to have conflicts or do they avoid them?
              - Do they know how to make conflicts constructive?
              - Are they passive aggressive against Agile or each other or the product?
              - Is someone dominating the team? What are practices that can help
              diffuse that?
              And so on.

              You are there to help the team improve by being an outside voice of
              guidance. If you step in to audit and command fixes, they have a much
              smaller chance of working after you are gone.

              Alan
            • Cory Foy
              Hi Scott, First, kill the word audit. The team will become defensive. Especially if things are going poorly. I ve done a retrospective of a struggling team. We
              Message 6 of 8 , Feb 4, 2010
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                Hi Scott,

                First, kill the word audit. The team will become defensive. Especially
                if things are going poorly.

                I've done a retrospective of a struggling team. We covered 18 months of
                work in a day. It was brutal, and revealed a lot of great things. But
                there were a lot of dysfunctions I had to carefully facilitate around.

                The real value came in the one-on-one sessions I had with developers and
                small groups. Those revealed additional team dynamics the retrospective
                brought out.

                But many times I find that the real dysfunction goes beyond the team
                into the organization as a whole. I know of one team that had a problem
                with rework - bugs were closed, but still found later in the system, and
                the bug was never reopened.

                It turned out that the testers were metric'd on how many *new* bugs they
                opened. And developers were metric'd on how long bugs stayed open.

                One other thing I like to start with on teams is a discussion of their
                workflow. How does something get from a customer request to being
                shipped? That might help pull a lot of good information about pain points.

                Doing all that in one day is going to be tough. I agree with George with
                the one-on-ones - I think I would do a short meeting with everyone to
                understand the overall workflow (watching for interesting dynamics) and
                then do a series of one-on-ones or small group discussions to dig further.

                And I'd pick up the books Agile Retrospectives, 5 Dysfunctions of a
                Team, and Crucial Conversations to start.

                --
                Cory Foy
                http://www.coryfoy.com
                http://twitter.com/cory_foy



                Scott wrote:
                > Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile team that worked under her. I agreed to do an audit of the team and coach them into better health.
                > I’ve got a good idea of how I want to go about auditing the team and its practices, principles and values, but I thought I might cast a net out and reel in the wisdom of this group. Certainly some of you have dealt with this before.
                >
                > My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone on the team into a room and starting with a retrospective. This should light the path and focus further work during the day. Some questions:
                >
                > Are there other valuable approaches?
                > What retrospective techniques or exercises have you found particularly valuable with struggling teams?
                > What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile audits with struggling teams?
                >
                > - Regards,
                > Scott Killen
                > Founder & President of Agile Austin
                > Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
              • ScottK
                Thanks for the insight Cory. Use of the term audit is interesting. The word was chosen because the frantic manager is a dyed-in-the-wool PMP. Yet, she is
                Message 7 of 8 , Feb 5, 2010
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                  Thanks for the insight Cory.

                  Use of the term "audit" is interesting. The word was chosen because the frantic manager is a dyed-in-the-wool PMP. Yet, she is open minded enough that, instead of pulling the plug on "this agile experiment" and going back to waterfall, she called me to see if the team was not following acceptible practices. A very open minded approach that I appreciated. I simply chose a word that made her comfortable. But your point is taken. A bad word to use around the team.

                  This team has a history about about 10 weeks. Thank goodness it is not 18 months.

                  The workflow discussion is a great idea. Thanks for that.

                  I've read Agile Retrospectives. It's a good one. The other two are on my reading list.

                  Appreciate your viewpoint.

                  - Scott Killen

                  --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Cory Foy <usergroup@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Hi Scott,
                  >
                  > First, kill the word audit. The team will become defensive. Especially
                  > if things are going poorly.
                  >
                  > I've done a retrospective of a struggling team. We covered 18 months of
                  > work in a day. It was brutal, and revealed a lot of great things. But
                  > there were a lot of dysfunctions I had to carefully facilitate around.
                  >
                  > The real value came in the one-on-one sessions I had with developers and
                  > small groups. Those revealed additional team dynamics the retrospective
                  > brought out.
                  >
                  > But many times I find that the real dysfunction goes beyond the team
                  > into the organization as a whole. I know of one team that had a problem
                  > with rework - bugs were closed, but still found later in the system, and
                  > the bug was never reopened.
                  >
                  > It turned out that the testers were metric'd on how many *new* bugs they
                  > opened. And developers were metric'd on how long bugs stayed open.
                  >
                  > One other thing I like to start with on teams is a discussion of their
                  > workflow. How does something get from a customer request to being
                  > shipped? That might help pull a lot of good information about pain points.
                  >
                  > Doing all that in one day is going to be tough. I agree with George with
                  > the one-on-ones - I think I would do a short meeting with everyone to
                  > understand the overall workflow (watching for interesting dynamics) and
                  > then do a series of one-on-ones or small group discussions to dig further.
                  >
                  > And I'd pick up the books Agile Retrospectives, 5 Dysfunctions of a
                  > Team, and Crucial Conversations to start.
                  >
                  > --
                  > Cory Foy
                  > http://www.coryfoy.com
                  > http://twitter.com/cory_foy
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Scott wrote:
                  > > Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling agile team that worked under her. I agreed to do an audit of the team and coach them into better health.
                  > > I've got a good idea of how I want to go about auditing the team and its practices, principles and values, but I thought I might cast a net out and reel in the wisdom of this group. Certainly some of you have dealt with this before.
                  > >
                  > > My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone on the team into a room and starting with a retrospective. This should light the path and focus further work during the day. Some questions:
                  > >
                  > > Are there other valuable approaches?
                  > > What retrospective techniques or exercises have you found particularly valuable with struggling teams?
                  > > What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile audits with struggling teams?
                  > >
                  > > - Regards,
                  > > Scott Killen
                  > > Founder & President of Agile Austin
                  > > Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
                  >
                • John
                  Hi Scott, I m intrigued by she called me to see if the team was not following acceptible practices . What is the deliverable from the review? I d second
                  Message 8 of 8 , Feb 5, 2010
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                    Hi Scott,
                    I'm intrigued by "she called me to see if the team was not following
                    acceptible practices". What is the deliverable from the review?

                    I'd second Cory's idea to led the team through a discussion on their
                    development cycle, a fairly neutral topic that almost everyone will have
                    thoughts on what is good and what could be better.

                    John


                    --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, "ScottK" <swk@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Thanks for the insight Cory.
                    >
                    > Use of the term "audit" is interesting. The word was chosen because
                    the frantic manager is a dyed-in-the-wool PMP. Yet, she is open minded
                    enough that, instead of pulling the plug on "this agile experiment" and
                    going back to waterfall, she called me to see if the team was not
                    following acceptible practices. A very open minded approach that I
                    appreciated. I simply chose a word that made her comfortable. But your
                    point is taken. A bad word to use around the team.
                    >
                    > This team has a history about about 10 weeks. Thank goodness it is
                    not 18 months.
                    >
                    > The workflow discussion is a great idea. Thanks for that.
                    >
                    > I've read Agile Retrospectives. It's a good one. The other two are
                    on my reading list.
                    >
                    > Appreciate your viewpoint.
                    >
                    > - Scott Killen
                    >
                    > --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Cory Foy usergroup@ wrote:
                    > >
                    > > Hi Scott,
                    > >
                    > > First, kill the word audit. The team will become defensive.
                    Especially
                    > > if things are going poorly.
                    > >
                    > > I've done a retrospective of a struggling team. We covered 18 months
                    of
                    > > work in a day. It was brutal, and revealed a lot of great things.
                    But
                    > > there were a lot of dysfunctions I had to carefully facilitate
                    around.
                    > >
                    > > The real value came in the one-on-one sessions I had with developers
                    and
                    > > small groups. Those revealed additional team dynamics the
                    retrospective
                    > > brought out.
                    > >
                    > > But many times I find that the real dysfunction goes beyond the team
                    > > into the organization as a whole. I know of one team that had a
                    problem
                    > > with rework - bugs were closed, but still found later in the system,
                    and
                    > > the bug was never reopened.
                    > >
                    > > It turned out that the testers were metric'd on how many *new* bugs
                    they
                    > > opened. And developers were metric'd on how long bugs stayed open.
                    > >
                    > > One other thing I like to start with on teams is a discussion of
                    their
                    > > workflow. How does something get from a customer request to being
                    > > shipped? That might help pull a lot of good information about pain
                    points.
                    > >
                    > > Doing all that in one day is going to be tough. I agree with George
                    with
                    > > the one-on-ones - I think I would do a short meeting with everyone
                    to
                    > > understand the overall workflow (watching for interesting dynamics)
                    and
                    > > then do a series of one-on-ones or small group discussions to dig
                    further.
                    > >
                    > > And I'd pick up the books Agile Retrospectives, 5 Dysfunctions of a
                    > > Team, and Crucial Conversations to start.
                    > >
                    > > --
                    > > Cory Foy
                    > > http://www.coryfoy.com
                    > > http://twitter.com/cory_foy
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > Scott wrote:
                    > > > Last week I had a frantic manager contact me about a struggling
                    agile team that worked under her. I agreed to do an audit of the team
                    and coach them into better health.
                    > > > I've got a good idea of how I want to go about auditing the team
                    and its practices, principles and values, but I thought I might cast a
                    net out and reel in the wisdom of this group. Certainly some of you
                    have dealt with this before.
                    > > >
                    > > > My thinking is to begin the day long audit by collecting everyone
                    on the team into a room and starting with a retrospective. This should
                    light the path and focus further work during the day. Some questions:
                    > > >
                    > > > Are there other valuable approaches?
                    > > > What retrospective techniques or exercises have you found
                    particularly valuable with struggling teams?
                    > > > What insights or experiences can you share from similar agile
                    audits with struggling teams?
                    > > >
                    > > > - Regards,
                    > > > Scott Killen
                    > > > Founder & President of Agile Austin
                    > > > Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
                    > >
                    >
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