LEARN! To get out of the Agile Limbo…

To my followers, now it is time to talk about LEARNING and how this can transform you and your teams to carve the path out of the Agile Limbo. For those who don’t, maybe it is time to learn if you are there — Check my original article Are you in an Agile Limbo and find out more. 

OK, here you are! You and your team hanging tight into the Agile journey, motivated individuals knowing what they are accountable for and working to realize the company vision — If you do not know what I am talking about, refer to my article on MOTIVATION— and then somehow, as usual, something fails… From here you have two paths. You run to find what went wrong and find someone to blame for, as of course, you do not want to be the one in the line, right? WRONG! You should be the one supporting your team, as Agility is all about OWNERSHIP and TRUST. Remember everything starts with the questions to ask your teams, so… Do you think you are safe to FAIL here? 

To take the right path, you need to check for the clues on the answers here. But before getting there… Ask yourself, do YOU think you are safe to fail in your company? You as an agile leader, have the freedom to fail, and most important LEARN from your mistakes? Do your leadership comprehends the power of learning here? If what you hear from your leadership is to avoid failures at all costs, you are certainly in an Agile Limbo, you know why? Because Agile is iterative, it is all about acknowledging failures, and most importantly LEARNING from them. If you avoid failures at all costs, how can you learn from that? Remember Agility is a journey, and never an end, so if your leadership thinks you cannot fail, they will never allow you or your teams to improve.

Some would say, come on Eduardo, these guys do not even know how to do things right, how can I let them fail? Well, if this is the case, you need to work on other things before getting here — Check my article on ACCOUNTABILITY to know-how. OK, I am an accountable leader, and my leadership trusts me for failing, now what? Cool, if you got here, half of the work is done. To translate that down to your teams, you need to make sure they know that too. Agile leadership is a servant style, leads by example and loves storytelling. So start there! Create a discussion with your teams on a failure YOU made. State what happened and ask what they would have done. Make them part of the solution to a problem you created, and most importantly what they would do to prevent that going forward. Ask each of the teams (or team members) to present briefly what they learned. In the end, contrast what you did with what they shared, and BOOM! Before you even know it, you created the necessary bond to start a LEARNING culture with your teams. 

OK, Eduardo! A nice idea for start, but how can I make from a single meeting into a true LEARNING culture for my teams? Well, now that you made the first most important step, it is time to create spaces for them to do the same. Start using the recurrent meetings (retros/demos/all-hand/whatever) you already have, and create a space for sharing the failures, and most importantly the LEARNINGs. Feed this culture by being attentive to the team failures, and promoting these kinds of meetings. Make them recurrent and give space to the teams to feel comfortable about running these. Find people in your teams more prone to share, and make them “learning leaders”, accountable for sharing this culture. You will see that people will start to get used to sharing perspectives, storytelling and finally LEARN! And when you have a team after teams sharing, yes… BOOM, a learning CULTURE is established! And instead of failing, teams will be more and more assertive all the time. This is when Agility delivers its promises, get better and better over time… As they fail — as we all do — but now they LEARN!

And what about you? Ready to kick-off a learning culture in your company, and unleash the power of your teams out of the Agile Limbo? Let me know in the comments below.


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Eduardo Martins is an Agile leader with more than 15 years of consulting experience delivering projects/programs to all kinds of companies worldwide. Agilist by heart, he is passionate about empowering and improving teams. Eduardo holds a bachelor and post graduations in Information Technology, and is certified in a series of Agile methods, holding certifications like PMP, Scrum Master, Six Sigma Black Belt, and more recently he was recognized as one of the firsts PMI Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Masters in the world. An Agility writer he publishes in specialized media as Medium and PMLink.com. He also hosts AgilityTalks in Youtube where he invite practice leaders to talk Agility.

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