Whether you are new to managing an agile project or just looking to beef up your skill set, there are three simple tips for improving your leadership in agile. By getting back to basics, you can increase your chances for success and help your team grow at the same time.
Make the equation solvable with or without you in it
It’s natural to want to feel important. However, the reality is that teams work better and produce better results when they are able to explore rather than being stringently led. When workers are dependent on a leader, they won’t be as likely to solve their own problems, think as critically, or take experimental leaps in process. Give up complete control so that self-organization can take place and mastery is shared with a common purpose that empowers everyone involved in the project.
A good way to think of it is to consider the “bus factor.” The bus factor is commonly used to question how many people would need to be incapacitated—or hit by a bus—in order to completely derail the project. The bus factor can be applied to nearly anyone and any project.
Lead, contribute, and produce results, but more importantly create an environment of autonomy, critical thinking, and responsibility where the project can succeed with or without you.
Expect their best efforts and hold them to it
This seems like a no-brainer, but it can easily be compromised when faced with adversity and subsequent excuses. It is better and much easier to set good behavior early than to try to correct poor behavior late in a project’s lifecycle. If constant documentation, continuous integration, or test design is important to you from a leadership standpoint, then let team members know what’s expected from the beginning and hold them to those expectations until the end of the project.
Don’t get me wrong—everyone has off days, and I’m not advocating being a cold and soulless leader who demands perfection. This tip is arguing that it’s important to set standards, hold the team accountable, and ensure that expectations are understood so there is a better chance of their being met.
Learn to ask and accept
A project's start can be exciting, so it can be easy to forget to ask the hard questions. How much experience does the team have? Are the dates for the project reasonable? How realistic are the goals? Are there any already foreseeable impediments? These questions are simple, but it’s better to ask them sooner rather than later.
More important than asking questions is learning to accept. No agile project is perfect. It’s impossible to know all the requirements at the beginning. Not all defects can be caught during testing because some will only be revealed after masses of consumers are using the product. The project requirements are going to change, and so are the circumstances and problems the team will face.
Accept that there will always be more to do than money or time will permit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give it your best effort.
When not working on his theory of time travel, Cameron T. Philipp-Edmonds is writing for TechWell and its community sites. With a background in advertising and marketing, Cameron is partial to the ways that technology can enhance a company's brand equity. In his personal life, Cameron enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic dinners by candlelight, and playing practical jokes on his coworkers.