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Managing Morale Through an Agile Transformation – Part 2: Keeping the Giant Happy

By: Christy Overall

Engineers planning structure

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of positive morale throughout an Agile transformation, comparing it to a “Sleeping Giant” that can make or break the success of that transition. But how, exactly, are attitudes improved (or, better yet, positive from the start)? Communicating wins early and often is a big part of a successful Agile transformation including both wins in code delivery and wins in attitudes. What are some possible reasons for increased morale throughout a move to Agile?

  • The Team observes real, tangible progress during Stand Ups; hears about completed development and testing in real-time and sees tasks move from person to person
  • The Team has direct access to user feedback during Sprint Reviews
  • The Team has clear opportunities to voice their opinions during Backlog refinement meetings
  • Many Agile-based tools provide a platform to record detailed conversations and questions among the team, bettering communication
  • 2-week sprints give the team ample opportunity to deliver “wins” to users

And how can a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Management ensure that morale continues to improve?

  • Management should continue to offer opportunities for one-on-ones with team members, demonstrating each team member’s value
  • Improvements that are prioritized during Sprint Retrospectives should be implemented and discussed during the next Retrospective. The team must feel that they have a voice and that it affects change
  • If there is a Program Team, they should continue to operate under their Working Agreement, and the Agile team should be held to their Working Agreements as well. This conveys structure and a respect for everyone’s boundaries
  • The Scrum Master, Product Owner, and any leadership should acknowledge individual successes to the whole team, often. Be generous with praise
  • Leadership should drop in on Stand Ups at random intervals, to give the Agile team an ear and/or demonstrate that their ongoing, daily work is acknowledged
  • Constantly focus on furthering business alignment with Agile principles; emphasize the benefits to the Agile approach

Finally, once a team has gained momentum, how can an organization socialize these wins to demonstrate the value of this new approach?

  • Develop an Agile Transformation case study and publish on an organization-wide collaboration site. Consider creating an infographic to capture reasons for positive transition trajectory
  • Identify standing meetings with appropriate stakeholders in other groups and add an agenda item to review recent Agile transformation wins or “transformation keys”
  • Create an environment intended as an opportunity for all Agile practitioners to connect, share and learn about topics that provide the most interest to the group
  • Create an “Agile Team of the Quarter” and leverage Agile Coaches (or other independent resources) to implement a Q&A mini-Town Hall with a representative from the team
  • Create a brief video with Agile team member interviews, especially those with deep Waterfall experience who now see value in the Agile approach; post the video on an organization-wide internal site(s)
  • Treat this socialization effort as a project and assign an owner to follow through and own it

Guiding a team through an Agile transformation can be very rewarding when team members understand the benefits of the Agile approach and the improved voice it gives each of them from beginning to end.

Christy Overall

Christy Overall


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