There is a phrase in Agile which talks about it being a way of “making a good team great” or a “great team better”. Like much in Agile, it is a phrase that slips by without people really appreciating the true meaning and implications.

In fact, this innocent sounding phrase is absolutely critical.

If we accept that Agile is abut “making a good team great” we need to be clear about what “good” is: As I’ve said previously on these pages, “good” isn’t about technical skills, since we can assume people have them. We don’t ask the cleaner to do our development. “Good” means knowledgable (see here) and being in tune with the sector and industry we are in (see here) so that we use appropriate techniques. If these two things come together, then people will deliver anyway.

Agile is therefore about optimisation. Improving on situations that are already working.

What you can’t do is assume you can drop Agile in to any team with the belief there will be magical improvements.

in other words, if Agile is about “making a good team great” it equally means that it isn’t about “making a bad team good”. And again, we need to be clear about what “bad” means. It is quite likely it isn’t a reflection on the people. It may well not be due to a lack of skills. Not a sinister conspiracy or indication of corporate wrongdoing. It is simply that people find themselves in situations that are for one reason or another unproductive. In my experience this is almost always down to a knowledge management problem. If people don’t understand the fundamentals of what they are doing (a situation I encounter with depressing regularity) you don’t solve this by rigging up Kanban boards and telling people to write stories for everything. It’s great if it helps, but something else has to happen first before you contemplate any of this. Having done it, you might actually have a “good” team.

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