The success of an Agile transformation largely depends on the quality of the relationships between people within the team and with their stakeholders. For it to be effective and successful in the long term, interactions must be at the center of your approach.
Sometimes it’s not easy. Especially in front of reluctant (even worse… hostile!) stakeholders or when not all the members of your team are there yet.
This week, I’m going to talk about these relationships and share concrete tools to improve relationships between people. Whether within your team, or with the people who gravitate around, and can impact the success of your approach.
How to create awesome relationships in your team
Great relationships are part of the values and principles found in the Agile manifesto. To create products that meet the needs of users, and to innovate, you have to be able to collaborate in a healthy way, to find new solutions. Collective intelligence only fully unfolds in work contexts where openness and trust are key.
Get to know each other better
It may seem very simple, but even offering convivial moments such as meals between or between teams and coffees (even virtual) already allows you to create links. I also like to suggest that the beginning of meetings or workshops begin with icebreakers.
They allow you to get to know your teammates better in a few minutes, over the course of the exchanges. It can be very simple questions like: what is your favorite book?
These types of activities can help team members get to know each other better and better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Communication, another important aspect to take into account
Watch and discuss as a team and between teams which communication channels are the most suitable and effective.
Should we organize regular meetings, as in the Scrum method where daily meetings regulate the life of the team?
Are online collaboration tools needed to facilitate the transmission of information and problem solving?
Bring people to the (virtual) table to decide together, and evolve as connections are made and improvements can be made. And of course: keep it simple!
Manage conflicts and disagreements (in advance)
They are unavoidable, but managing them is paramount to maintaining healthy relationships within the team. Overall, team members should learn to speak up constructively, actively listen to others, and find solutions that work for each other.
Training and training teams in emotional intelligence, like putting words to their emotions, maybe a step forward.
It can also be interesting to think in advance about the ways the team will have to manage certain conflicts and make certain decisions, especially in the event of a crisis or strong disagreements. Doing this exercise at a time when the team is in a good state of mind will result in much better rules than if its members are in conflict.
Agile transformation is not just about the team itself. Stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, managers and other people involved in the project, can greatly disrupt your approach if they are reluctant. It is necessary to create good relations with them and manage to convince them of the interest of agility, little by little.
Communication as a key element to convince
It is important to understand the concerns and expectations of your stakeholders. Question them and take the time to discuss, to better understand their constraints, their context and why they react as they do in front of you and your team.
Also explain the benefits of agility using their terms and concerns. Go get them where they are, rather than trying to get them to come to you. Propose trials, tests. Talk about flexibility, continuous improvement and adaptation to change, allowing to obtain concrete results more quickly.
Listen to understand
Great communication does not go without listening. You must be able to understand the needs and concerns of stakeholders, and give them the opportunity to express themselves.
It doesn’t matter if you use an Agile method or not, make sure you have meetings allowing them to see what has been achieved. Give them the opportunity to express constructive feedback on these elements delivered. Listen carefully to feedback, then integrate it into the product and show them that you are listening.
You can also share retrospective moments to involve them in the continuous improvement process and engage them in a better way of working together.
It may also be relevant to involve stakeholders in the agile transformation process by sharing as many elements as possible with them. Starting with the vision of the product to be built, but also clearly sharing the list of elements to be produced and their progress. Share challenges and risks when appropriate. This often requires courage, but helps to unfold trust, which is necessary to move forward in Agile mode.
Key skills to develop for better relationships
As you have seen, relationships between people are at the heart of the agile method. It is essential to work on the interpersonal skills of each member of the team.
Skill #1: Empathy
Developing empathy allows everyone to better put themselves in the other’s shoes and be better able to understand their point of view, their needs and their expectations. This allows us to work better together and collaboratively.
Non-violent communication techniques, where it is a question of expressing one’s needs and emotions, can be very useful in developing this skill. But also the fact of being able to put one’s own judgments aside and listen to the other attentively.
Skill #2: Active Listening
Active listening allows the other to have a space to express themselves. It is essential to create a climate of trust between people.
To develop active listening, it can be useful to take the time to rephrase what the other person has said, and – above all – to give them enough time to respond and express their ideas. When we are active listeners, we listen to understand, with curiosity, rather than listening to respond.
Skill #3: conflict resolution
Even before conflicts arise, it is relevant to work as a team to define clear rules: whether on communication in the team, on decision-making or on conflict management. A teamwork agreement, via a team canvas, for example, is a great tool to adopt to collaboratively define the rules.
It can also be interesting to train people in conflict resolution.
Skill #4: Collaboration
For a good collaboration, each member of the team must feel involved and valued. Meeting facilitation techniques can be very helpful in encouraging everyone’s participation and fostering creativity and innovation.
It is also important to celebrate team successes. Celebrations help strengthen bonds between team members and create a culture of trust and caring.
In short, an Agile transformation is not limited to the adoption of new ways of working, but also requires a transformation – sometimes significant – of relationships within the team and with stakeholders. By investing in these skills, Agile teams can create a collaborative and productive work environment that helps meet stakeholder needs and deliver results of greater value to them.