Working with Agile methodologies can be hugely beneficial to your company — provided you pick the right person or coach to oversee the transition. We call this person the “Agile Champion” and it’s their responsibility to usher the team to Agile.
What may come as a surprise is that an Agile Champion doesn’t actually need to work agile!
Their main role will be to look at the results of the implementation and facilitate the changes that need to be made, ensuring the team is getting the most benefit from the change.
What does an Agile Champion do in essence?
Agile Champions live and breathe Agile methodologies. They take an oversight role — advocating Agile while also being critical with constructive feedback. An Agile Champion needs to ensure that the team remains enthusiastic throughout the transition. They also need to understand what they are doing — and why they are doing it — to maximize outcomes.
The Agile Coaching Institute defines two styles of Agile Champion: “The Activist” and “The Sleeper Cell”. So which approach is right for you?
The Activist tends to come with relevant professional experience — they might be a development lead, QA lead, or even a product owner. They bring with them a lot of life lessons, and these can be used to help influence others.
This style of Agile coaching is for outgoing, confident people who have no problem inserting themselves into the team. They will set up and organize communities that bring Agile workflow into everyday life and help it become second nature for everyone involved. They have a proactive attitude and will often host Agile lunches or casual meet-ups outside of the office to encourage productivity in a more relaxed situation.
The Sleeper Cell is an Agile Champion who is not working within an Agile team already. They may never have worked with Agile methodologies at all!
They are powered by the belief that agility can bring value and improvements to a company. They will sit in wait and pick the right moment to introduce an Agile practice into the workflow. While they aren’t as interactive, Sleeper Cell coaches can act as an almost third-party presence — providing insight from outside the team, turning that insight into real positive change.
Both styles of Agile Champions are responsible for making sure the team is staying on the right track; planting Agile seeds within various processes that slowly grow into a fully-fledged Agile team.
What skills are required to be an Agile Champion?
Agile Champions play a key role in the transformation from traditional methodologies to Agile. However, the best Agile Champions know when Agile is a suitable approach and when it isn’t.
A great Agile Champion will assess how a team is currently working and find opportunities that could be improved by Agile working. They need to be analytical and keep one eye on the prize at all times — there’s no point switching to Agile methods if your workflows are slowing down or getting more confused as a result.
Agile Champions also need to be comfortable speaking to people across different departments and should certainly have some insight into how each department works, to help enable better coordination. They also need the authority and confidence to create new positions within the team, in case no one within the business is able to support a certain area.
Lastly, they need to be tenacious and accountable for the overall success of an Agile transformation. When your name and reputation are on the line, then discretionary effort really pays off. And that’s why Agile Champions are called champions — they fight for the results they are after and, often, they win.
How to become an Agile Champion for your organization
If you’ve read this far, then you know that becoming an Agile Champion is for you. Great stuff! But how do you get started?
Here are a few tips to get you on the right path…
The potential of Agile as a way of working spread by word of mouth. Maybe you’re even reading this because you heard from someone else that Agile was the route to take.
But anecdotal evidence only goes so far. And until your team has a chance to experience the value that Agile working can bring, it will be tough for them to fully understand and embrace the change.
To combat this hesitancy, an Agile Champion should empathize with the team and use their previous experience to demonstrate the value that Agile can bring. This will be easy for ‘Activist’ coaches, but ‘Sleeper Cell’ champions may need to do their research.
Then, as the team starts to adopt Agile practices, the Agile Champion should assess the outcome of each task, sprint, or project to ensure it’s working as intended. Ask the team for feedback to understand how they’re coping with the change and if they feel like it’s making a difference overall. Are deadlines feeling more realistic? Does the team believe this is a step in the right direction?
The more information you can gather, the more you can adapt the process and learn new methods to use in future projects.
Engage with others already working Agile
Chances are, you’re not going to be the only Agile team within your sector. With larger companies, you won’t even be the only Agile team in the building! But rather than seeing this as pressure or competition, view it as the perfect time to shake off the traditional silence between departments and promote growth throughout the organization.
If your company is lucky enough to have multiple product managers, they should be working together to help each department transition. Sharing knowledge between teams can create a whole culture of Agile methodologies. And before you know it, the whole company will be working Agile — with reduced costs and greater output in both quality and quantity.
Remember, if you’re spearheading internal meetings and promoting Agile throughout the business, you’re more likely to get recognition as an Agile Champion.
Nurture a culture of learning
Truly successful businesses grab hold of opportunities to learn every time they crop up. Creating a ‘culture of learning’ is essential to Agile workflows, as the team needs to be ready to adapt to changing situations. Falling into old habits is strictly taboo.
A culture of learning is created when employees are committed to continuous learning throughout their careers. Each team member acknowledges the need to grow, retool, and learn new things on a regular basis. To complement this, Agile managers should also facilitate learning opportunities into the workday. Even a 10-minute window of learning can benefit the employees, and company, immeasurably.
It’s unlikely anyone will hand you the “Agile Champion” label. And there’s rarely a specific job role for someone to just be an Agile Champion.
One of the key steps to becoming an Agile Champion is to promote yourself as such. Give your LinkedIn profile a make-over, add #agile to your bios, join Agile channels on your company’s Slack (or other communication platforms) and start the necessary conversations.
The more you present yourself as the “go-to” for Agile, the more people will start coming to you for assistance.
Make sure you have the right tools for the job
So now that you’re talking the talk… how will you walk the walk? It’s time to turn your attention to tooling — making sure you have the right tools to demonstrate the value of Agile with ease.
Luckily for you, easy is what we’re known for!
EasyRetro offers Agile Champions the perfect platform to kickstart Agile workflows and get full team buy-in. Our tools are available everywhere, so it couldn’t be more straightforward to bring your colleagues together no matter where or who they are.