CHOW #31- Does Agile work for a team of freshers?

Karen has a mandate to setup a new team in India for a product line. This product line has teams in the US and they are growing to accommodate to build new features as well as maintain the expansive features. With that context, Karen created a transition plan for a period of 6 months through different phases that included knowledge transfer, development using the old team members as shadow support and  development by new team members acting independently.

While team members were hired, many members were fresh out of college or with less than 2 years of experience in the industry. Karens’ past experience in Agile was always with team of well rounded multi-disciplinary team members.

Have you had such experience? How did you deal with it? Was agile the preferred methodology to transfer knowledge as well as run the development team?

Suggested solution:

While speaking to Karen in detail, one of the quick realizations were that she has led many teams but didn’t have experience in setting up brand new Agile teams. And above that was the complexity of managing the transition in a smooth manner (without the traditional metrics) AND a higher proportion of fresh graduates.

First things in order is to keep these themes separated
New Agile Teams: New Agile team setup is same as any other project team setup. First a basic training is given to all the team members on technical, functional and process side. Process means not just Agile training but also the team norms, DORs and DOD definition layout. Roles and expectations from each member is laid out and clearly understood. Within each sprint, the velocity is signed up to only the extent that would keep the teams for success.

Managing Transition: Taking one step deeper in the process is an key understanding of knowledge transition and tailoring the process based on the project/product context.
I have seen agile teams create their process for knowledge transfer in the lines of ‘knowledge accumulation’, ‘Minor Change and Validate’, ‘Change and Validate’ and ‘Steady state’. Depending on how large the modules are, the teams can iterate over these 4 levels in 2 weeks to 6 months also. In each phase, try finding ways to showcase the teams’ understanding in the width as well as depth.
Its upto the entire team to sign up for such a challenge.

Fresh graduates: In XP programming, one of the fastest way to bring a new person upto speed in the product area is to pair with that person while solving a production issue or developing/testing for a user story or deploying the code in a server to test. This gives a clear guidance in an end to end manner. Just like onboarding a new person to the project, fresh graduates would be the same. As an anchor, it would be better to provide a mentor or a go-to person. In addition, one of the effective ways I have seen, co-create a learning plan for the graduate to learn on their own experiments and report back. This will bring a sense of confidence for everyone in the team as well as the new fresh graduate(s).

As you would see, there is really nothing new in the practices followed in onboarding as far as agile is concerned. New generation of team members bring fresh ideas, energy and balance the dynamics for the product development. Remember, with the right guidance, fresh graduates quickly become the vital force for the team!

What have been your experiences after applying these learnings.

What do you think?

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