While many teams and team members embrace the change from waterfall to agile and look forward to a better way of working, many struggle with the loss of the comfortable way they've been working up until now. As an agile coach, it's imperative that we understand that those people may appear to be fighting the transformation and they may be called "set in their ways" or "late adopters," but their feelings and actions are normal.
Here are the symptoms of each stage of Agile transformation grief and some ways to coach them:
1. Denial - In this stage, an individual or team may believe that the organization's commitment to agile transformation is a passing fad or another management tactic that will soon blow over. They may say, "our team is different - Agile won't work for us" or "it's just another word for micromanagement." They cling to the false reality that they can just put their heads down, and the transformation won't happen to them. They think perhaps leaders will forget about them, and go on with the transformation in another part of the company.
In the case of denial, the coach needs to be fair, but firm. Encourage those in denial to talk about how their team is different, and in what way it "won't work." Listen carefully, and offer positive reinforcement for behaviors that already align with agile principles. Address any myths quickly. Remember that each team is different, and help them to learn practices that celebrate and use that difference to deliver valuable software quickly.
2. Anger - As the newness and excitement of an Agile transformation wears off, even the most positive team members will experience some low-level anger from time to time. These feelings in an Agile transformation can be directed at many targets - the most frequent of which is toward at Agile Coach or Scrum Master themselves. You may hear team members say things like, "there are too many meetings!" or "why do I have to stand up? This is dumb!" or "leave me alone, I just want to code!"
Teams that are maturing may have feelings of indignation as they feel their Agile Coach or Scrum Master pulling away, and helping other teams or parts of the organization. While a team is usually proud that they are becoming more advanced Agile practitioners, the bond that one feels with a teacher, mentor, or coach is close. You may be getting conflicting messages from the teams like, "We can do it ourselves" followed by, "You're not spending enough time with us."
As a Coach, remember that these is normal, not wrong. Despite being directed at you, they are often not about you specifically. The key thing to remember is not to argue, as that will increase the level of angst...but ask one simple question: "Why, specifically, do you feel this way?" To the exclamation about too many meetings, the resulting conversation may reveal that there aren't "too many" meetings, but they might be at inconvenient times. Perhaps the facilitation of the meetings need some work in order to make them more valuable. Perhaps there are too many for that team, and there are better ways of handling various meeting activities.
3. Bargaining - You've probably already seen the bargaining stage in action. First, it's important to understand the concept of Shu-ha-ri. From Wikipedia, the words of Aikido master Endō Seishirō:
"It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebears created. We remain faithful to these forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws."
Teams enter the bargaining state right around the time they start moving from Shu to Ha. Teams want to change the way they do things, they question management, and they start noticing how other teams operate. The trick to coaching them through it is to keep them asking themselves why they do things - and why they want to change. A team may want to give up doing the daily scrum because they find them boring, or they may want to give up the daily scrum because they mob all day and are constantly sharing information about their progress and impediments. The Agile Coach can remind them to examine why they are changing, and help them experiment with change so they can move quickly, always being careful not to guide the change.
4. Bleakness - As a team starts to explore more options on how to work, and some team members push harder for their own directions while others are content with the choices made so far. You'll see a lot of frustration, angst, and unhappiness as they try to find their way. This is the "teenager" stage of a team, where they want a lot more autonomy, but feel outside forces keeping them from being truly innovative. Symptoms of this bleakness are teams that find no value in stand-ups or retrospectives at all. They might stop pairing and mobbing, and start working in silos. They could abandon the things that were making them great, and become more low key. The first instinct of an Agile Coach would be to make retros more fun, or try to get them back into their groove, when what they really need is support for whatever autonomy and innovation they want to try. At this point, the Coach must look in the mirror and see if they are the blocker - perhaps you are still facilitating their meetings, or reminding them of Agile principles. Step back. Let them do retrospectives themselves, then support whatever it is that comes out of them. Increase your trust, and decrease your touch.
5. Acceptance - When everyone reaches this state: management - Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and the Dev Team - you'll see some great symptoms of a healthy team. They don't even talk about the "old days" of waterfall, except to compare how easy/fast/better things are now. They don't complain about how things are without proposing a way they can fix it. Their retrospectives are absent of blame, and have valuable outcomes. On the other hand, they might even decide to skip a retrospective if they are constantly inspecting and adapting during their regular work day. Team discussions are customer centric, and they enjoy getting any kind of feedback from the people and teams that they are serving. It's time for the Agile Coach to take on more of a passive role, and move on to newer teams.