Is your otherwise competent and engaged agile team starting to regularly missing deadlines, produce low quality work, clog or circumvent feedback loops, and roam the halls like zombies—or if you prefer, like white walkers? If so, then the bad news is that your group is burned out.
The good news, however, is that you can revive them if you take action now vs. wait and see if things get better in the future (pro tip: they will get much worse). Here is what to do:
1. Be flexible
Agile has the potential to be highly beneficial, and can be the best thing to happen to development teams since the invention of pizza delivery. But remember that Scrum and Kanban are methodologies: not religions. Implementing an agile-hybrid approach, where detailed requirements are followed by incremental sprints, might be what your team needs to get the structure, stability (and sanity) they need.
2. Empower and recognize
Lack of control is among the most common causes of burnout, which is especially problematic on agile teams where so many key decisions are made by customers and external teams. Help your team reclaim some power by giving them ownership of goals and outcomes, and especially by recognizing and rewarding success.
3. Foster visibility
If your agile team is constantly fighting a tiresome and losing battle with the PMO and IT project managers for more resources, more clarity, more time, and more budget, then the root cause is likely a disconnect between the two camps. The solution? Implement a tool that bridges the gap and fosters visibility, so that decision are made based on hard data vs. anecdotal evidence or guestimates.
4. Pair workloads
Pairing workloads can go a long way towards preventing end-of-sprint death marches. To make this work, pay attention to the quality of work and the level of engagement in the context of the overall sprint goals, and the size of the backlog and technical debt.
5. Enhance clarity
A weak signal-to-noise ratio in agile environments blurs focus and triggers burnout. Enhance clarity by offering (where applicable) more remote working opportunities, reducing the volume and frequency of meetings, and ensuring meetings that remain on the calendar are efficient and facilitated.
6. Don’t underestimate the power of coaching.
No, this isn’t to suggest that you should put up pretty posters on the wall that declare: “Today is Tomorrow’s Yesterday.” Rather, it’s to remind you that part of your job is to meet one-on-one with your team members and see whether they need to re-charge their batteries. This is especially true of the introverts in your group, who may be extremely proficient but can be among the first to get exhausted in frenetic, constantly changing agile work environments.
…and last but certainly not least:
7. Have fun!
Whether it means going out as a group for a meal, to a movie, to an amusement park, or maybe giving your team some time off to spend with their families and friends, injecting fun and pressing the pause button on work can do wonders for energy levels and overall commitment.