Continuous improvement requires that people reflect and find ways to do their work in a better way. Having diversity in agile teams makes it possible to discover and explore new ways of working, where uniform teams with identical kinds of people would aim for steadiness and don’t want things to change. Let’s explore how you diversity can enable continuous improvement using agile retrospectives.
Diversity makes change happen
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the tipping point. He explains that having different kinds of people who work together is a precondition to change. Thijs Homan describes in his book Organisatiedynamica how teams have to be diverse to enable change to happen. These two go together, there has to be a cycle of continuous change in teams to adopt to changing circumstances and to improve themselves.
You need people with a diverse set of social gifts to have changes done, says Malcom. Multidisciplinary agile teams can be such a collection. Organizations use models like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to assure that they have people with different skills in a team. In many of the agile teams that I worked with I saw the connectors, mavens and salesmen.
Thijs Homan explains that we need sufficient diversity in an organization to make change happen. When the diversity is low people do not come up with new ideas. They share a similar view of how things should be done which supports a status quo. When the diversity is too big people do not understand each other’s ideas and find it difficult to connect and work together.
Exploiting diversity in Agile Retrospectives
The agile retrospective brings diverse people together with the purpose to reflect on how things are. And lets their creativity flow to solve problems that they are having in the team. An agile retrospective empowers a diverse team to self-assess how agile they are, develop a shared view of the situation, and decide what they will do next to continue their journey to become more agile and lean.
Retrospectives can support continuous lasting improvement through diversity:
- To make diversity work people have to respect each other. Retrospective facilitators enable respect in teams, e.g. by using the Prime Directive from the book Project Retrospectives by Norm Kerth.
- Communication is key to make diverse people work together. Retrospectives help to define actions to improve communication and collaboration in teams and agile projects.
- Feelings matter in agile retrospectives (as do soft skills), therefor retrospective facilitators need to have a knack to address the diverse feelings of team members and help teams to effectively deal with issues that they are facing.
Continuous Improvement with diverse teams
When you are defining agile teams, make sure that they are multidisciplinary and diverse. This will enable teams to reflect and learn, and find better ways to do their work.