Saturday, September 10, 2011

Individuals and Interactions: An Agile Guide

Authors:      Ken Howard and Barry Rogers
Published:   2011
Publisher:    Addison-Wesley Professional
Paperback: 240 pages
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"Individual and Interactions over Processes and Tools", thus begins the Agile Manifesto. It is obvious that the authors of the Agile Manifesto considered "Individual and Interactions" of  foremost importance for  any Agile implementation. Ironically even after ten years, the Agile literature is flooded with books on "Processes and Tools" but hardly any  on individual behaviors and team interactions in context of  Agile projects. Therefore this book is a very welcome addition to the Agile literature.

This book is in two parts. 

Part I - This part  introduces  and discuss the concepts of  - Individual Behavior, Team Dynamics, Communication, Collaboration, Team Behavior, Change and Motivators. These concepts are well illustrated through numerous examples from Agile context.
The authors  recommend  assessment of  the behavioral profile of each individual through  the  DISC (Dominator, Influencer, Supporter, Critical Thinker) framework and sharing the findings with everyone in the team. This they say will lead to better understanding and appreciation of an individual's behavior  and thereby promote teamwork and collaboration. A  typical DISC test is provided in this book. I took this assessment and found the results pretty much in synch with my behavioral pattern !

The chapter on Communication addresses the Agile Principle - The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. All the key aspects to keep in mind during face-to-face conversation - Empathy, Cultural Awareness, Language (both verbal and body language) - are dealt with. Guidelines to communicate with different behavioral profiles are also provided in this book.

Yet another Agile Principle - Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done - is also addressed. The chapter on Motivators identifies and discusses  six key workplace motivators -  Theoretical, Utilitarian/ Economic, Aesthetic,  Social,  Individualistic/Political,  Traditional/ Regulatory.  
Motivation strategies appropriate to each of these motivators  are also suggested.

Part II  - This part gives detailed guidelines  and instructions on on how to conduct Team Dynamics workshop. It suggests various exercises for the participants which will  enable them to become aware and internalize all the concepts introduced in Part I . Some examples of exercises -  Communication Origami ( for Communication), Bridge Building ( for Team Dynamics), Moon Survival ( for Collaboration). 

People issues are the most challenging ones in any agile project. This book is an excellent guide for Team members, ScrumMasters, Product Owners, Management, Consultants, Trainers to understand these issues and  successfully address them. A Must-Read !


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