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Don’t tell, ask.


Kat Lim asked me this great question:
“My team has developers that age between 33 to 40 years old. I’m scrum lead (mix of ScrumMaster and tech lead). I try to put the Agile bug in them but still can’t get it done. It’s just they don’t want to divide in user stories, update a board, prioritize, etc. It’s like they think it’s a waste of time.”

Sound familiar? You roll out a new development process, but nothing changes. You propose a change to how you deploy, but no one adopts it. Your team agrees to try something new in the retrospective, but no one follows through in the next sprint. You’re talking until you are blue in the face, but it seems like no one’s listening.

Failure to commit, failure to launch.

Your team isn’t internally committing to what you ask them to do, and it could be your fault. You may have failed to communicate the goal and reason for the change.

For example, you might ask your team to limit their work-in-progress. Certainly, this is a reasonable management request. Some people ignore this request and work on many things at once. They don’t buy into the idea, so they continue in the usual manner.

Instead of mandating an action, try discussing your goal and reason for the change, and then ask the team how best to reach it.

In this case, you might not tell them “Limit your work-in-progress.” You might say “I noticed many things are left half-done at the of an iteration. I’d like to have more items completely done and ready to ship so we can deliver value faster. How could we achieve that goal?”

See the difference? Put the goal in front of them (“have more items done and ready to ship”) and the reason for the goal (“so we can deliver value faster”), and then brainstorm with them about how to get there. The team might still decide to limit WIP, but since they proposed it, they buy into the idea. Win-win.

“All his explaining is exhausting!”

Some managers complain that they get tired of explaining WHY something should happen. They want their team to “just do it” without all the talking.
These managers are treating their team like robots, or software functions. They imagine if you just program them right, they will do what you want. Sorry, that won’t work. At least not for very long.

To achieve long-term motivation give people a line-of-sight view from their actions to value delivery. The next thing you know, they will be hitting the target, and you’re not mandating anything.


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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