I am a self confessed cynic.

So when I was introduced to agile I wasn’t hugely impressed. There were a bunch of overly enthusiastic people quoting all sorts of jargon, wanting to play ‘games’ and throwing around post-it notes like confetti. Obviously my views changed, I started to see success from using agile and began to realise that all this jargon did actually come from some evidence. But this took time.

Now days I will often be the person giving the talk on why agile is so beneficial and why we should be using it more. And in those meetings it is seriously easy to spot the cynics. Maybe they will roll their eyes if you use a term they haven’t heard before, maybe they will call problems with the ideas you are suggesting, or in the worst case, they have completely zoned out of the meeting. And I understand why people often have this reaction.

But don’t get frustrated by this. Some of these cynics just need a little more convincing than a confident sounding person with a fancy job title giving them a speech. These are the people you want on your team, the ones that don’t just do what you say but question it. These guys might be the ones who like to prove a theory themselves, they may be extremely analytical and they might have some great ideas that have frustratingly been ignored. These are the guys that will make your team great, if you can get them to use these powers for the benefit of the team.

Some useful things to remember when first going into a team like this:

  • Don’t use jargon – this seems obvious but when you have practised agile for a long time you often forget how many terms you use that are new to non-agile doers. Explain agile in plain English with real life examples.
  • Listen. Listen a lot. Most teams have a lot of frustrations, especially if they haven’t been very empowered. A lengthy retrospective can be a helpful starting point. I say lengthy, because there is often a lot to get out. This not only allows you to see how things are working within their teams but can start to ease some of the difficulties they are having. Talking about things really does just help.
  • Although there are basic agile principals that have to be stuck to, most practical solutions are up to the team. So encourage people to tell you if they think you are wrong. A healthy debate, if you can do it in a healthy way, is a great way of getting to the best solution, and a servant leader doesn’t want to be making the decisions. Empowerment is the name of the game.

It doesn’t stop there. After these initial conversations, it is often months or even longer before teams really see any benefits from the use of agile. But if you can get them engaged enough to give it a go, then hopefully they will begin to see the benefits.