Monday, March 1, 2010

Agile and Team Motivation - Goals

I recently started a series based on an Esther Derby Amplify discussion about how to demotivate a team. Esther mentioned in her discussion that unclear and changing goals are a big demotivator for a software development team. Besides agreeing whole heartedly my first thought when reading her discussion is how a good Agile implementation combats these demotivators. Let’s see how Agile methodologies thwart some of these potential demotivators for software development teams.

But first, a high level review of some key Scrum concepts; The Prioritized Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog, and the Sprint Planning Session.

The Product Owner prioritizes the Product Backlog to identify the highest priority / value product features to be delivered by the Agile software development team.  By viewing the Product Road Map and the Product Backlog the Agile software development team can get a fairly clear idea about the project’s long term goals. 

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Scrum and Goal Stability / Clarity

  • The Product Road map is created by the product owner to provide a long term view of the product vision.

  • The Product Backlog provides a view of the desired functionality expressed as user stories. The Product Owner prioritizes the user stories to place the highest value user stories to the top of the Product Backlog.

  • The Sprint Planning Session and the Sprint Backlog; The Scrum team conducts a Sprint Planning Session in which the Scrum team selects from the Product Backlog a set of user stories and then commits to complete the selected user stories in the next Sprint.

    • It’s important to note that once the Sprint commitment is agreed upon by the Scrum team, the contents of the Sprint cannot be changed by someone outside the Scrum team.

  • Every day the Scrum Master conducts a Standup meeting with the Agile software team to review progress against the Sprint commitment. Using burn down charts the team can see if they will complete the user stories and meet the commitment (goal) of the Agile team.

  • Once the Sprint completes, the Agile team demonstrates the completed code to the product owner to validate that the Agile software development team delivered what was expected by the Product Owner.

    In the Scrum / Agile environment, the team can see all aspects of the project, from the macro level Road Map to the micro level of the individual task. The Scrum team members set their own commitments on what they can deliver and are responsible to deliver on their commitment. It’s reassuring for the software development team to know they won’t be thrashed with constant change. It’s also very satisfying for an Agile software development team to deliver functionality on time, demonstrate it, and have the product owner validate that the developed user stories are what was expected.


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    5 comments:

    Mike said...

    Good post. One needs to learn about leadership from gold medalist rower- Sir Mathew Pinsent.
    At the IMD OWP 2010 Pinsent will share his experience from four Olympic campaigns, which resulted in four gold medals. He will highlight the importance of goal setting, communication, trust and ultimately the courage it takes to win in the toughest of conditions.

    Project Management Hotshot said...

    Good topic! I wouldn't say the biggest demotivators are the unclear and changing goals, but may be the lack of responsibility. I actually go a little bit off topic, but I would like to point this out because there are still so many "no-agile projects" out in the world, and this is a topic I really like..

    What I have noticed is that in traditional projects, in which project manager says who does what and so on, people somehow become frustrated and low-performing. Interestingly in agile projects this doesn't happen, and I believe the reason is in collective responsibility. The TEAM is responsible and self-organizing, which means there is no project manager giving orders. I believe this is one of the great things in agile projects, and therefore I believe one of the biggest demotivators in traditional projects is the lack of real responsibility.

    Any thoughts?

    Tushar said...

    nice Post
    Keep wrirting

    PapaDee said...

    I have been introduced fairly recently to the world of Agile Project Management. This post and the subsequent comments strike a chord in relation to the self-managing abilities of agile teams.

    Self-directed or autonomous teams have been identified as desirable but difficult to achieve goal for many middle management teams. The Agile environment manages to free the team from restrictive constraints of traditional project management practice. As a corollary it has the potential to unleash creativity and enthusiasm. The net result is the formation of an empowered self-managed team at the project level. This phenomenon I think is a great example of the application of Team Dynamics theory to the creation and execution of agile projects.

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