One of the seven principles behind the Disciplined Agile (DA) framework is Be Awesome. Who doesn’t want to be awesome? Who doesn’t want to be part of an awesome team doing awesome things while working for an awesome organization? We all want these things. Recently Josh Kerievsky has popularized the concept that Modern Agile teams make people awesome, and of course it isn’t much of a leap that we want awesome teams and awesome organizations too. Similarly, in their work on Lean Software Development the Poppendiecks observe that sustainable advantage is gained from engaged, thinking people. Helping people to be awesome is important because, as Richard Branson of the Virgin Group says, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.”
There are several things that you as an individual can do to be awesome. First and foremost, act in such a way that you earn the respect and trust of your colleagues – be reliable, be honest, be open, and treat them with respect. Second, willingly collaborate with others. Share information with them when asked, even if it is a work in progress. Offer help when it’s needed and just as important reach out for help yourself. Third, be an active learner. Seek to master your craft, always being on the lookout for opportunities to experiment and learn. Go beyond your specialty and learn about the broader software process and business environment. By becoming a T-skilled “generalizing specialist” you will be able to better appreciate where others are coming from and thereby interact with them more effectively.
Awesome teams are built around motivated individuals who are given the environment and support required to fulfill their objectives. A 2015 study at Google found that successful teams provide psychological safety for team members, that team members are able to depend on one another, there is structure and clarity around roles and responsibilities, and people are doing work that is both meaningful and impactful to them. Awesome teams have a very good working relationship with their stakeholders, collaborating with them to ensure that what they do is what the stakeholders actually need. Finally, awesome teams are whole – they are cross functional, having the skills, resources, and authority required to be successful and team members themselves tend to be cross-functional generalizing specialists.
Awesome teams also choose to build quality in from the very beginning. Lean tells us that your process should not allow defects to occur in the first place, but when this isn’t possible (yet) you should work in such a way that you do a bit of work, validate it, fix any issues that you find, and then iterate. The Agile Manifesto is clear that continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
As a leader, you can enable your staff to be awesome individuals working on awesome teams through providing them with the authority and resources required for them to do their jobs, by building a safe culture and environment (see next principle), and by motivating them to excel. As Dan Pink points out, people are motivated by being provided with the autonomy to do their work, having opportunities to master their craft, and to do something that has purpose. What would you rather have, staff who are motivated or demotivated?
This article is excerpted from Chapter 2 of the book An Executive’s Guide to Disciplined Agile: Winning the Race to Business Agility.