The Agile framework is big on teamwork, team building, and employee engagement amongst other things as necessary ingredients for a well-oiled, super-productive workflow.
It seemingly encourages Team Leaders, Project Managers, Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches etc to shower constant praise and cheer on individuals on their team for every attempt at progress, every chance they get.
Sometimes, however, much of what gets a pat on the back is just good intention or effort, and not actual value. Unfortunately, projects do not get ahead on good intent but on value.
In recent times, I’ve had Project Managers, Technical Leads and Heads of’s say to me privately; “it sometimes feels like we’re just high-fiving a lot and not getting much done!”
Yes, people feel better with all the encouragement, but the reality is, sometimes productivity suffers because value is lacking. Hard as it may sound, in constantly cheering mediocrity, you create a slack system of work where anything goes.
How then do you balance managing your team firmly and demanding value while still keeping them cheerful, inspired, and motivated?
Should you celebrate value more than effort and good intent?
Effort vs Value in Agile
Effort in Agile is the measure of the unit of work done and the time taken to complete tasks, goals, and products on a project.
This implies that Individual or team effort can be easily measured on a project by keeping track of targets assigned to individuals and teams to ensure that they meet up with target specifications and time.
Value on the other hand is the measure of the relation between effort and the project’s goal.
When effort falls short of the project’s goal it is lacking in value and should be addressed, but when effort meets or surpasses the goal, it should be celebrated and encouraged.
So the question becomes: “Aren't the project’s goals supposed to be in line with the assigned targets on the job, so that hitting targets is the same as giving value?”
For example, If the goal of company XYZ was to hit 3000 niche subscribers in a month and the role of Individual A was to build this list.
If Individual A hit the target of 3000 subscribers but at least 60% of the pool is in a totally unrelated and unprofitable category, it simply means that the actual value delivered by Individual A was 40% even though the target number of subscribers was 100% achieved.
Value is basically prioritising quality and relevance in delivery over quantity. If value is not monitored, progress begins to stall and all you really might be celebrating is effort and good intent.
Using software like Teamwork Projects, Zoho Projects, Trello, and JIRA a Project Manager can effectively monitor effort and value factors like time, project milestones, speed, consistency, and quality and assign new tasks on a project.
The Role of a Project Manager in Monitoring Value
Project Managers (or Management/ Leadership team) need to understand that value-based targets get you closer to your goals, so in monitoring feedback from your teams, keep an eye on how closely they align with the project’s goals.
You need to be firm and challenge the results. Agile is not just about fun environments and back pats, but about achieving the right level of quality.
And sometimes, that entails having difficult conversations and giving constructive feedback - which may, unfortunately, be tense and uncomfortable, feelings will get hurt sometimes too, but ensure that you always remain constructively on the goal.
Accountability in Agile Project Management
One of the easiest ways to increase value on a project is by promoting accountability.
When team members feel accountable to the team and project leads and responsible for the work that they contribute towards the team’s goals, they are more likely to strive for excellence and give value.
You can infuse an accountability system in your project team to get them started on the right path.
Balanced Reward and Recognition
As we understand the need for value in project delivery, it’s equally important to recognise and celebrate individuals and teams that truly bring value to their work and encourage others who make an effort at giving value.
The following are a few ways to reward value;
● Bonus and incentives
● Award of Recognition
● Open praise and acknowledgment
● Promotion (if applicable)
● Paid leave or a deserved break to rest and recuperate (if necessary)
Leadership and management teams have a responsibility to keep their teams inspired and goal-oriented. Being firm and insisting on value over effort and good intent is not out of style, it is in fact the way to ensure that the value delivered aligns with the project goals at the end of the day.