The One With “Here, Choose This Ticket, Be Agile”

As promised last week, here are some terrifying snapshots in the lives of financial institutions. Today’s instalment is shocking in that the European bank this comes from, is seen as doing ok on the back of some early wins with a payment app -separate from their digital banking app still of course- that came out relatively early a few years ago and won some awards. The conversation below has taken place almost verbatim. As is the case for all other unnamed individuals in these fables, the CDO came to find out I find it appalling in how it will quadruple their already hefty HumanDebt™ by assassinating the very core of voluntary collaboration that’s at the heart of Agile, but not before this exchange took place:

Chief Digital Transformation Officer: “Happy to report we cracked our transformation journey”

Me: “Wonderful news, tell me more about it”

“After a few years where we weren’t getting it quite right, we worked out what we needed to make the mindset change really work”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

“A way to help people be truly more Agile”

“Very cool! Were they having trouble?”

“Oh yeah, they were very resistant to the change”

“In what way?”

“They were coming to the meetings and doing the stand-ups and the retros and such but they weren’t really happy about it”

“How do you know?”

“Just rumblings, email chains with subtle and not so subtle complaints about the process and so on”

“Oh ok so just a general sense of dissatisfaction”

“Yes and that’s after the ones who didn’t agree with going towards Agile at all had left and we had a fair few of those”

“Oh right, ok, so what did you do?”

“We got HR to help”

“That’s wonderful news, in particular in banking it feels like they are oftentimes only business partners in name and they aren’t allowed a seat at the table when it comes to the technology teams”

“Yes we noticed that too so we decide to bring them along on the journey properly”

“Brilliant. How did you get them to experience what DevOps means to you and why you need it to design a competitive digital proposition, do they run the people org in an Agile way?”

“Nah, there’s no point doing that, their needs are different”

“Oh so how did they get to see what Agile is?”

“We told them and some of them even read up on Scrum and SAFE”

“Oh”

“But that’s beside the point, just asked them to help implement the Agile transformation not rethink it or sanity check it for us so it doesn’t matter if they are Agile too”

“Well…”

“Anyhow, want to hear how they helped? What the key was?”

“Sure!”

“Tickets encouragement”

“I’m sorry?”

“Tickets encouragement – it took some doing as we had to stagger kick-offs to ensure we have enough HR people for it but we eventually managed to make sure we have an HR person in every sprint kick-off and they kept a tally of who volunteered to do a task and who didn’t and when they thought someone wasn’t grabbing enough tickets they gently encouraged participation.”

“They what?!?”

They were encouraging. Just a gentle “Go on John, you know you can write that piece of code/solve that problem/validate that assumption why don’t you put your name to this one?” – just you know, supportive”

Wow”

“Isn’t it great? That way no team leader, PO or scrum master had to be the bad wolf of “command and control” and delegate to-do’s but instead HR asked people to apply their abilities and skillset and do the work in a coaching way”

“Right…. I don’t know where to.. that’s not … umm…. how did the teams take this?”

Oh they tried to fight it at first but we overcame all the “But why are they here?” moans and the “That’s not what I do/how it works” objections and they’re very happy now and just getting on with it, in most meetings the HR person hardly even has to name any individuals to make them grab tasks now and only ever has to check that the work in progress is weighted to avoid burnout”

“Huh”

“They just make sure that the workload is split equitably so it’s all balanced”

“Do they?”

“Oh yes, it’s great”

“So… say Sam has 1 ticket and Samantha has 3 – what happens then?”

“They take one off Samantha’s plate and give it to Sam of course”

“Which one?”

“Whichever – they wouldn’t dream to micromanage like that!”

“You’re not joking…”

“No! It’s awesome. We even noticed massively more collaboration and team members be willing to help each other out”

“How so?”

“Well at first, we had a ticket-reassignment procedure in place to keep ensuring the equity so that people don’t disrupt the balance achieved in the kick-off during the sprint, which was just a very light approval step where team leaders had to shoot an email to the HR person to notify them if a ticket changed owner or they were pair programming or such and ask if it was ok but then we decided to take that away completely as it was clogging HR’s inboxes and now people change tickets as they see fit during the sprint on their own therefore increasing the team’s autonomy!”

“I see…. Do HR come to the retros too?”

“They used to but let’s face it, demos can be boring and they have vacations to approve, new hires to find – we had a terrible time finding good people who can run as fast as this lately!- and Covid return to the office procedures to work on so not anymore”

“This all sounds unbelievable – so everyone’s happy with this now?”

“They are now, there were some dissenting voices and we heard people had some “shadow kick-offs” but we ensured HR was invited to the Slack channels so they are part of the real talk and all that stopped now”

</End Scene>

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