I have been often asked to share a proud moment from my agile practitioner journey. Well, there are many, however, there is one that is very close to my heart. It is a story of a team that started on a back foot but ultimately came out a winner.
To set the context, this team in a particular business unit was newly formed to help reduce the problem tickets which have been piling up and no one was working on them resulting in low customer satisfaction.
The team members were technically sound, enthusiastic and if I have to rate them the best of the best which it comes to their technical competency. After the team was formed, they were given the overview of the application, the code walk-through, and all that was needed to get them started.
For the first few months, the team struggled. The business was upset. They felt nothing getting fixed. The delivery management tried to add more people, got a coordinator to support yet things were not moving. On the other hand, the team members were getting frustrated as they were staying late hours to recreate the problem, find solutions, and yet things not moving.
Slowly however things started changing and within 6 months, the team was awarded the CIO award for their outstanding work. So, what changed.
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the duration
The development team established direct contact with the business. It really helped the development team and business to appreciate and trust each other. They could reach out to each other directly. Whenever the team was not able to recreate the scenario in a test environment, the business helped them in recreating it. In fact, the business helped in writing the test cases for the development team as well as testing them. At the same time, both of them were able to appreciate the pain and the real challenges each was facing. There were negotiations, collaboration, there was open conversation.
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
The team members were already motivated. What they needed is the confidence, focus, and support required to move forward. The whole universe conspired to support this team. It started off with the collaborating teams — SOA, testing, deployment, triaging teams, supporting and collaborating with this team. Earlier it used to take ages to get a response. However, with clear-cut SLA and direct communication, responses from the dependent teams were quicker and faster. The dependent team was now the extended team and yet the communication was intact. There was planning with business prioritizing on the top items to focus on for the next 2 weeks. Apart from that, the management focused on providing the infrastructure required for the team to deliver — providing support and environment for test automation, build & deployment. There was no micromanagement and the team members were trusted that they will do their work or share their challenges.
Focus on a sustainable pace
With all the collaboration, communication, and relationship established, the team also figured out their sustainable pace. As a team, they were able to come up with the no. of problem tickets they would be able to solve in a week cadence. This was conveyed to the business and because of the earlier trust and relationship established, the business was in agreement. With this sustainable pace, the team had a good work-life balance which showed in their work too. The team not only resolved the problem tickets, but they also started innovating and developing tools to make their life easier.
It was not that things were constant. People joining, people leaving, new applications getting added, new problem records getting added. It was all happening and yet the team was reflecting, doing adjustments, and continuing on their work.
The team went through their journey and at the end of 6 months their hard work paid off when the problem records were less than 300 and they were appreciated by the highest management. Within the next 6 months, this team had become so trustworthy that the business took its help to deliver quick and small enhancements to the customers.
When I reflect back, one of the keys for the team to become high-performing is to respect and nurture people. Give them the support, the environment, the freedom, the shared clarity and they will do wonders.