Ensuring Teams Deliver Value

Xavier Shay

Engineering Director at Square



"An issue I've dealt with in the past is having a lot of teams doing a lot of work, with nobody really knowing what they were doing. It was hard to connect the dots, and because of this people were considering leaving the team."

Actions taken

This sort of issue is hard to diagnose. I decided to identify how we wanted to add value to the business, how we could show we were adding value, and how we could organize people and processes around that.

"If you've done any kind of Agile process, what I'm going to say will sound very familiar. Problem statements often drive Agile processes. If you say 'How are we going to give people confidence we're delivering value?', you can come up with a solution such as showing them what you've done to create value every week or two weeks. Then you can go back to the teams and ask them about how what they are doing is working towards your business' values. If they don't know you can tie it back to iteration planning and you can start to think about what you will demo."

Next, you can examine how your team is working together. A lot of companies will be very individualistic. A lot of people gravitate towards this model because they think if everybody is responsible nobody is. However, in a high-performing team, everybody feels responsible and wants to step up to ensure that the company is on-track. By using stand-ups effectively, you can encourage your whole team to think about the work the team has committed to and how the team will get it done.

"By pushing teams and asking them how they are doing things as a team and what they are demoing, a lot of teams will have an aha moment, where they realize there's a problem they need to fix. As a result, you end up with a team that has a better idea of what it's doing, and they're enabled to do work they're proud of. This approach helped to address most of the problems I started with - teams had the sense that they were shipping, and morale increased."

Lessons learned

"When teams are left to their own devices, they will often come up with processes and will go through the actions of using Agile, stand-ups, duration planning, retros, and demos, but they tend to just go through the motions. If they don't have an understanding of why they're doing the rituals or if they even support the company's goals."

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Xavier Shay

Engineering Director at Square

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesAgile, Scrum & KanbanTeam & Project Management

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