Agile is dynamic. It moves at speed, it fails early, it picks itself up and perseveres.
Agile is loud. It’s stand-ups, open-plan, post-it notes and show and tells.
Agile is an extrovert.
If it has a problem, it tells you to your face. If it’s not happy, you’ll know about it.
We’re not all extroverts.
Whether it’s us content designers, who want to polish a piece on our own before we feel comfortable sharing it, or a user researcher, who’s happy leading an enormous show and tell, but doesn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in a blog post.
We have to accommodate the whole team. So how do we make agile work for us?
Being bold does not mean being loud
For some people, being themselves means being with people. Some introverts might feel more able to be themselves in smaller groups or on their own.
Luckily, that’s no problem.
Sometimes if I’m working on a particularly tricky bit of content, I’ll take myself out and work on it alone. More often, I’ll find myself working with one or two subject matter experts.
Having a shared task means that we can build a relationship, and that takes some of the anxiety away.
When you feel comfortable, you can let your work do the talking.
Your team should be a safe space
Some agile ceremonies and ways of working can leave you feeling exposed.
For some people baring their souls at a retro is second nature, but others probably can’t imagine anything worse.
The only way to manage this is to ensure that your team runs on trust and empathy. We’ve talked before about empathy and how important it is to an agile team.
We couldn’t do what we do if we didn’t trust the motivation of our colleagues.
If we get feedback, if we’ve tried something bold that has come to nothing, the collective empathy of our team is the cushion we land on.
Work is an endeavour not a test
When we come to work, we do our best. Whatever our role in the team, we put our best foot forward. We work together. We try to make where we live better.
We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t all feel that.
Knowing this, our team collaborates and give each other the benefit of the doubt. If something’s taking a long time, or if someone’s struggling, we see how we can help.
Working in multi-disciplinary teams helps this. We only succeed if we succeed together. We’re not testing each other’s knowledge. We’re not questioning each other’s professional judgement.
We’re all imperfectly iterating to find what works for the user.
Agile's not dogma
Agile is a set of behaviours. Within these principles you have the space to work in a way that suits you.
One of the key factors in feeling comfortable and supported at work is feeling like you’re in control of your work and your environment.
In our team, our delivery managers are here to help with this. Their focus is the work not how you do the work.
If you do it at home, in a café or on the train two days late, as long as the work is done, that’s what counts.
Our team has quite a flat structure. We tend to feel comfortable in our roles and don’t feel like we need to ask for permission to work in the way that suits us best. This means that we’re not pushed to do things we don’t feel comfortable doing.
Get to know what works for you and don’t be afraid to let people on your team know. Having this security might actually help you push beyond your regular comfort zone.
Take a walk
It’s not just work, it’s the people you spend your waking life with. Get out of the office and get to know them.
We’ve started doing a team walk every week or so. It’s a really nice, informal way to chat.
It’s not too long so you don’t need to worry about small talk. No one will notice if you give it a swerve and it takes you out of the office drudgery.
It’s also a good time to share problems or ask for support.
This is what works for us but you could do pretty much anything. Book groups, coffee dates, anything that breaks down the formal barriers of the office.
Agile is a team sport
Working like this means everyone feels comfortable and able to give their best. It doesn’t mean we skulk around avoiding each other for days.
That means embracing the varied strengths of your team. It's a team sport that doesn't mind if you sit it out on the bench for you to collect your thoughts. Especially if it helps you to achieve results.