Have you ever tried martial arts? Perhaps a bit of surfing? Or maybe you consider yourself somewhat of a spiritualist? Well, all of these are disciplines that centre ultimately on self-discovery. In the same way, Agile principles are more than just a work ethic – they are a way of life. Indeed, as Nicholas St. North (that’s Santa to the uninitiated) claims in the movie Rise of the Guardians: we all have to find our own centre. If you aim to master the Agile ethic then your own centre has to align with agile principles such as respect, focus, and commitment, and these are traits that you just don’t turn off when you leave the office. If you are not personally prepared to take responsibility for great, rapid delivery in all aspects of your life then you’re going to have to put in a lot of work before you can leave the “nursery” and catch your first agile wave. As Roach tells us in the movie Point Break: “just paddling out into the surf is total commitment. You can’t just call time-out and stroll on into the beach if you don’t like the way things are going”.
Our own core values are the bedrock upon which realistic personal goals are constructed. And each individual’s goals, in turn, form a framework for the Agile team’s vision – a tagline describing your team’s ultimate aim as a high performing entity (that resides on the team’s whiteboard for the duration of its time together, and probably beyond). In this way, personal values such as respect and honesty lead to such individual goals like listening to colleagues’ opinions and being utterly transparent in your dealings, which can then roll up to form part of the team’s “internal contract” with itself.
The best way to uncover these values, as ever, is to talk about them with the rest of the team. One useful method you could employ is the “journey line”, a graph charting each individual team member’s highs and lows (both personal and professional) for some or all of their career. Giving each of the team 15 minutes to complete their own graph for presentation to the others is a great way of getting people to introduce their skills and life experiences to date, from which you will all begin to get a sense of how the others “tick”. This then leads on to the creation of a framework of behaviours – a contract, if you will – that the team consents to follow in its daily workings. This can be used to not just set but to reset expectations of your way of working, or WOW factor. As an example, “everyone gets the chance to speak” is not only a powerful promise at the outset of a project that helps create an inclusive and respectful environment, but it is also a measurable target against which we can compare the way things are actually happening. Calling the wrong behaviour by referring to this element of the “contract” is a far less emotive tactic than merely telling people that they are behaving badly or inappropriately.
In How to Get Rich, Felix Dennis tells us that “conventional wisdom daunts initiative and offers far too many convenient reasons for inaction”. Maybe it’s time for you to be brave and to try something new…?