How To Get a Team to Think Agile

I've seen this issue before; a team is struggling to move into an agile process. In my case, they are using agile to plan out an architecture. It's a smart team, but they are immediately jumping into solving problems and developing artifacts. The problem is, using agile process (scrum specifically) for planning, problem solving, developing a strategy, documenting an architecture requires some discipline and thinking a little differently.

Why agile for planning?

Can planning be done in a 'waterfall' or adhoc approach? Sure. But the same benefits in using agile for development can also be applied to planning. Starting with a clear statement of vision to align the team. Agile applied to planning forces teams to document deliverables and define 'done'. Instead of 'shippable code', think be ready to present to senior management. Management can review and steer teams based on what they need to make better decisions. Multiple teams can be used to tackle questions of independent scope. Ideally, planning can end sooner and help the organization move to execution more efficiently.

Thinking Agile

If your team is jumping right into solutions or adhoc planning, here are my suggestions on steering them to an agile process:

  • Define a vision - What are you trying to accomplish. Define an end state. Insure that the team is aligned on what they are trying to accomplish.
  • Define the problems - Help the team to do a basic work breakdown. Define the problems that need solving without getting into a discussion on solutions or artifacts. Moderation or facilitation of this discussion may be needed to keep team members focus on problem definition.
  • Prioritize and Sequence - What problems need to be addressed first - either to address risk, deliver the most value, or are prerequisites.
  • Define problem deliverables - These are equivalent to agile stories. Now that you have a backlog, define the specifics of the problem that need solving then define 'done' by describing a completion artifact - a document, spreadsheet, a slide, a db design, etc.
  • Sprint - With a backlog of problems and definitions around the priorities, the team should be in better shape to establish its sprint process.
Oversimplified or easy on ramp? You decide.

1 comment:

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.