The more I think about the principles of Radical Agility, the more I see how they relate to the three pillars of Teal organizations: self-management, wholeness, and self-evolutionary purpose.
- Individuals and interactions (over processes and tools) → Wholeness & Self-management
- Working software (over comprehensive documentation) → Self-Management
- Customer collaboration (over contract negotiation) → Wholeness
- Responding to change (over following a plan) → Self-management & Self-Evolutionary Purpose
It looks nice on paper, doesn’t it? But does it work out in reality? Are there some Agile teams out there that actually apply all or any pillar?
I’ve had the chance to chat with Jean-Yves Reynaud, Systemic Coach and Agile Consultant. His experience on the field enlightened me on the reality of Agile teams that apply teal principles. The discussion was so insightful, here are the main ideas:
The benefits of self-organized Agile teams
“One of the risks of fake Agile is to witness the Scrum Master slowly turning into a manager or project leader who controls the work of his•her teammates. To avoid that situation, I generally advise Agile teams that want to become self-organized to get rid of their Scrum Master. Seems impossible in an Agile team? Actually, I don’t get rid of the role of Scrum master, I just distribute it among team members.
All the tasks such as facilitating meetings, clocking the time, taking minutes, making sure the team comes to a decision, making the link with the product owner, … rotate among the team members. And the Scrum Master remains responsible for the well-functioning of the team, including the organization of the meetings and the integration of newcomers. S•he acts as the gardener of the team.
Rotating the role of the Scrum Master brings even more equity between team members.”
Living wholeness as individuals
“In self-organized Agile teams, individuals have to learn how to handle conflicts and to provide constructive feedback. This doesn’t come innate, we all need to learn and train in order to experiment this way of working together. Non-violent communication can be of huge help if used correctly.
But the “soft skills” are not enough. By implementing delegated processes in meetings and improvement rituals such as the “feedforward”, team members can rely on the group to improve over time. I find the feedforward such a powerful tool to boost a mutual aid relationship inside the team. One person can hold this role for a specific meeting, or the group can share suggestions for the next meeting. Generally, it develops the team’s autonomy and fluidity. Moreover, it tends to spread to other teams inside the company, including the Executive Committee.”
Self-evolutionary purpose: living with alignment
“Since last year’s sanitary crisis, many CEOs and employees have started questioning themselves and feeling a gap between who they are and what they do (actually, some people already did but I feel the pandemic has accelerated this phenomenon). Our world is evolving, and so are the individuals. How can a vision be in line with the evolutions of the world if not self-evolutionary? How can employees adhere to this vision if they are not involved at all layers?
In (fake) Agile, the vision usually belongs to the Product Owner. I like to say that the vision is confiscated, and by doing so, it prevents people from projecting themselves, from understanding the purpose of what they do.
Instead, individuals are in search of alignment between who they are, what they do, how they contribute to their team and to their company. This is where a tool like Business models for teams can be of great help.”
Implementing Agile principles, or worse, the SAFe Framework, can become quite dogmatic in some companies. Organizations and their leaders must be careful to remain (or become) living systems, relevant for the world we live in and a fertile ground for the individuals that compose them.