How do you work in an Agile way to achieve team goals? An example from practice.

More and more organizations are adopting an Agile method in their organization, for example in the form of Scrum. At the same time, we still see many companies struggling with this transition, because how do you implement the old familiar annual plans in such an Agile environment? In October we wrote about what an Agile annual plan can look like. We have taken you through the use of quarterly rocks and how to reflect on this per quarter by means of a review and retrospective as used in Scrum.

In this blog we go a step further. The great thing about Agile organizations is that they are agile and can react quickly when environmental factors change. But how do you ensure that teams do not blow along with the wind? In other words, teams must be agile and achieve the desired goal at the same time.

More about an Agile annual plan

Would you like to know more about drawing up an Agile annual plan? Then read our previous blog!

Case study: Help us realize our annual plan
Some time ago we received a question from a customer: we have a team, we have a substantial annual plan with ambitious goals, but we are unable to get out of the madness of the day and actually achieve the objectives we have formulated. We often get similar questions; this often includes an element that concerns cooperation; trust each other more, give each other more freedom, but also dare to address each other. In contrast, what we often see is that managers get the feeling that they have no control over the situation and that they are increasingly task-oriented instead of result-oriented. This is counterproductive and, moreover, does not do justice to the capabilities of the team members.

How can you disrupt this way of working and get out of this often negative spiral? Our approach to success starts with the OGSM method, but does not end with an annual plan on one A4, as this method is also known. On the contrary, the process that follows is more intensive, but this also makes the method a success.

Want to know more about OGSM?

Would you like to know more about the OGSM methodology? Then read our blog from strategy to results!

Success through Direction, Space and Regularity
In order to give a team the desired freedom, creativity and thus productivity, we first coordinate the direction with the management. We do this by establishing the Objective, Goals and Strategies. In this we describe what we want to achieve for the next 1-3 years (objective), what this means quantitatively for the result of this year (goals) and what resources we use to achieve that (strategies). Once this has been established, the team can start formulating the measures (action KPIs & actions) in an Agile manner and get to work. We do this through Epics.

We know an Epic from Scrum and it is a collection of work that can be divided into subtasks, such as organizing an event to inform stakeholders about policy decisions, or drawing up a plan to generate more brand awareness. At the start of a sprint, which usually lasts one to two weeks, the team decides which Epics will pick it up and translates them into User Stories: individual actions that must be performed to make the Epic happen. It is important that team members are given the space to fill in the User Stories themselves: jointly determine a result (Epic) to work towards, but let them decide for themselves how they will achieve that result. By trusting people and giving them room for “trial and error”, they will learn what is possible in the available time and also develop a great sense of responsibility.

Because the team is expected to achieve high-quality results together, it is important that it is a multidisciplinary team. Moreover, this requires the team to be open to each other about your strengths and weaknesses, to have the courage to give each other feedback and also to take the time to provide each other's work with feedback. Ultimately, this leads to a productive team that works diligently every sprint, but is also able to regularly adjust for priorities and changes in the environment. Keep in mind the maturity of the team. In the initial phase, a team really needs time to handle the responsibility and take the space it is given.

Because after every sprint a sprint review and sprint retrospective is done by the team, in which it is evaluated which results have been achieved and how that process went, you prevent people from falling back into the delusions of the day. By reviewing what is possible every sprint, the team does not get bogged down in tasks that seemed feasible at the beginning of the year, but which are no longer feasible due to unforeseen changes (such as illness or the departure of an essential colleague). It can also be done the other way around: if the changing environment offers new opportunities, the team can take on tasks that previously seemed impossible. That way you always perform at the top of your potential and your employees remain motivated to bring out the best in themselves. In addition, it has been found that working in small dedicated teams creates a higher degree of commitment to the organization.

Note: To learn to work as a team in this way, you must give each other time to get to know each other and to learn to work in this way. Our experience is that it usually takes 6 to 9 months before a team can really estimate what is possible in a sprint.

So: Now that you've read this, you might want to get started with Agile (even) more integrating into your organization next year. For a good start, keep the following in mind:
1. Is Agile working the right approach for your annual plan in your organization?
2. Is there a suitable annual plan available to start with?
3. Which teams are mature enough to get started with this? Tip: start small and then scale up!

Want to spar?
Are you curious whether your organization is ready to start working Agile with your annual plan? I would like to talk to you to see if you can start with the first steps. Please contact: Sander van der Laan.


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