Success factors for an International Agile team

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How to use the a2Results® Team app in International Agile Environment? This article shows the do’s and don’ts.

Context

I’m a project manager at Ericsson Telecommunication in Rijen, Netherlands and working on software development and integration projects of telecom applications. These applications are for customers (telecom operators) worldwide. In the telecom sector, simular to other sectors, there is a high pressure on cost reduction, which means that a lot of development activities are offshored. In our department, we make use of two teams of offshoring partners, one in India and one in Belarus. Normally these teams work independently on different solution areas.

Team setup

Due to resource shortage and time pressure, I decided to use resources from both teams to work on the same project. This was the first time this setup was used and this resulted in interesting new insights. Team setup:

  • Netherlands: Project Manager, Solution Architect, Quality Engineer
  • India: Technical Coordinator/Developer, 1 full time Testers, 1 part time tester, 1 part time developer
  • Belarus: 1 full time developer, 3 part time developers

As the team setup already reveals, several people work simultaneously on multiple projects. Not ideal, but this cannot be prevented due to specific knowledge and tasks. This makes coordination always a challenge.

Lack of progress

After 3 sprints of 3 weeks the progress was by far not what was planned. Many PM tools were used to improve the velocity but it did not have the required effect. Retrospectives, Estimations, technical knowledge sessions, … , it all helped to improve the cooperation and create a common understanding, but nobody could tell why we didn’t progress enough. Time for the Project Success Factor scan!

Approach in a multicultural team

In the first session, I explained the intention of using the success factor scan. This is an important step, especially due to the different cultures of the offshoring partners. India resources are usually not very open. The resources from Belarus come straight to the point but they work more individually.

In next session, the team used the a2REsults® Team app to fill in the success factor scan. Thirty-five questions (success markers) capture how each member experiences the team interaction. This is presented in a team profile as a guideline for the dialoque. Each member votes on five success markers which they though needed most attention.

What did the scan show?

Directly after that we had brief look at the results and we observed that:

  • The average scores of the Success Factor was between 2.9 and 3.7., Only 0.8 points difference between the highest and lowest result.
  • The variation per Marker was high, indicating there many different opinions in the team. Understandable from the multicultural point of view.

The team selected the following top five success markers:

Success Factor Success Marker Score
Co-Creation Inspire each other 3.1
Co-Creation Proactive alignment 3.6
Learning and Knowledge sharing Root Cause 3.1
Shared Context Interdependencies 3.4
Interpersonal communication Mutual Understanding 3.2

The team indicated that the results were not as expected. Good! That was exactly what we needed. Based on the scores, but also the experience of working with the team, I have analyzed how the scores of the different markers relate to each other. In my opinion, this is the most important and
valuable part of the scan.

My observations

I have formulated my own observations and interpretations and presented these to the team for reflection. For instance:

  • We do not proactively learn together and don’t have a mutual understanding, which means we are not getting to the root cause of the issues at hand.

I have let the team confirm if the observations were correct or not, and based on the team reflection further action points were defined. Besides that, I’m learning to use the interventions of each success marker for steering the team on the selected markers. As an example, actions related to the observation above included a knowledge session about how to execute Unit Testing, and we start Pair Programming. Besides that, several team members came to me individually and told me that the scan was an eye-opener for their own behavior and made some suggestions how they personally could change to increase their contribution.

Improvement of velocity

After the next sprint the results were again evaluated during the Sprint Retrospective. Inspiring each other and Root Cause still needed improvement. The other markers showed significant improvements. Nevertheless, the progress was still not good enough. In the end, we have concluded that one of the main causes of the low performance was the lack of telecom domain specific knowledge of some of the resources. Gaining domain knowledge takes at least a year. Also, the effort needed to coordinate the part time resources was very inefficient. Therefore, I decided to release the part time resources with less domain knowledge. This reduced the number of available hours, but also reduced time needed for coordination and knowledge sharing. The first week of the next sprint showed a significant improvement in the velocity, and for the first time we were on track.

What did I learn?

  • The a2Results® Team app including the success factors and markers is a really good tool for both teambuilding and for creating a team focus on markers that require further development.
  • As a project manager you really need to understand how the team works in order to analyse the logical relations between the various success makers. On the other hand, in multicultural environment this is a must for good performance.
  • Analyzing the results is preferred to be a team exercise. The first time this proces needs facilitation, but after that it is easy and creates a common frame of reference about the team interactions.
  • Since for the reasons of personal safety the scan is anonymous, it is not possible to differentiate results between team members. It is all about the dialogue.
  • The large differentiation in scores most likely came from the cultural differences.

More information

a2Results® Team app, Success factors , Success markers, a2Results® support page

team profile

1
Andre Van Dijk

Over de auteur:

Project Manager at Ericsson Telecommunicatie b.v. for international IT/Telecom projects concerning the development of Software customizations and adaptations, and System Integration of Next Generation Intelligent Network Solutions.
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