Agile Transformation – Motivated individuals are the key

Transitioning to Agile especially for non-Tech companies can be challenging. It’s hard to let go of the old habits and it’s even harder to embrace good habits. A common pitfall especially among large companies is that they tend to centralize the decision making during their transformation. But the spirit of Agile Manifesto is to embrace the fact that the Business requirements are ever changing, and centralized planning makes it difficult to realize self-organizing teams – which is another tenant of the original Agile Manifesto.

Responding to change over following a plan

Manifesto for Agile Software Development (

But more importantly than the methodology that is being followed to build Software, it’s always the individuals that make or break a project. Even the best methodology cannot save a project if the individuals aren’t motivated or empowered. But when you have motivated individuals and a good culture, any methodology will almost always yield good results. But what makes individuals motivated?

Centralized reporting may be killing your project

Build a culture where team members are encouraged to provide honest feedback on the state of affairs. I’ve seen it again and again where leadership relies on fancy reports to track the status of a project and go hard on their managers when things don’t appear to progress. The managers in turn pass their hardships on to the members of their teams. Team members will now pour more of their time and resources towards activities that make reporting look good that doesn’t necessary add any value to the organization or the project. You can’t blame them because they are adjusting to the needs of their leaders instead of the needs of their customers.

Motivated individuals require leaders who care about them

A lot of leaders claim that ‘People are their number one priority’. But what does that even mean? But does saying that magic phrase automatically makes people their number one priority? What factors make people motivated?

  • Conducting periodic one-one meetings the team member
  • Taking the time to get to know each of their team members to understand their hopes, dreams, aspirations and challenges
  • Aligning work that meets the needs of the customer as well as the team member (or at attempt to)
  • Providing proactive feedback to help the team member recover from a failure instead of waiting till the end of the year to say, “You did not meet the expectations for the year”. The goal should be to help the team member earn the best rating possible and encouraging positive behaviors to enable the individual
  • Providing psychological safety for the individuals so that they can openly bring up challenges and bad practices that they believe are hurting their productivity

Again, even the best methodology cannot save a project from failure if the individuals aren’t motivated enough to deliver. Individuals won’t be motivated if their leaders do not care about them.

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