If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African proverb
If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African proverb

Together is better

The Agile Tribe

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. ~ African proverb

Being a born and bread African, today I’d like to honor my roots and the wisdom of Africa in a subject that is so crucial for agility success. The subject of team spirit. Together-ness. Tribes.

But first, a short lesson on African culture.

A story of tribal Africa

When I think of Africa, there are two characteristics that stand out above everything else. Unity or Oneness, and Stories or Conversations.

In the ancient African culture, tribes used to live and work together as one. There were no boundary between you and me. What belonged to you also belonged to me. Just because you had a different father and mother made no difference to our relationship, as everyone was part of the same family, or tribe.

The chief was responsible to ensure the well-being of the entire village, and when there was unhappiness in the tribe, a fireside tribal meeting would be called where each person would have the opportunity to speak in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Stories and talking are ingrained in Africa. The tribal meeting would continue for days if necessary, until each person has voiced their concerns. Once everyone has spoken, the chief will decide, and everyone will follow suit and speak and act as one from that point forward.

Fireside stories were also the way that knowledge were passed from generation to generation. And to this day, relationships and conversations are part of Africa, with the wisdom in the African proverbs which I so love.

What You Need To Be An Agile Tribe

The particular proverb above is relevant to agile, and how a team can do more than one person when they believe in the same purpose and speak as one.

Part 2 of this series looked at who should be part of the team and why. It also introduced the one-person team syndrome — one of the biggest dysfunctions of agile teams.

To share resources don’t make you agile. Agility takes togetherness as a team, where everyone speaks and acts like one.

Vital signs of agility

Like the human body consists of different limbs, organs and parts, each with a separate, unique function, so too an agile team needs to know each other in the team and understand the function in order to support each other, lead by a combination of heart and mind. The heart guiding the where, with the mind guiding the how.

Here’s the vital signs to look for to determine the health of an agile team:

  1. There’s a well-defined shared purpose. The team speaks and acts as one.
  2. Each team member participates equally.
  3. There is collaboration. Decisions are not made alone and work is shared through pair-work or delegation.
  4. Each person has a unique, well-defined function. Everyone knows each others weaknesses, and their strengths.
  5. Conflict is welcomed and addressed head-on, without blaming, shaming or justification.
  6. Stories are shared in a safe space where each person is heard.
  7. Conversations give direction and strengthen relationships. Knowledge is reciprocal with equal parts listening and speaking.
  8. You work hard together, and you have a lot of fun together.

You know you’re agile when purpose and culture collide.

Do you belong to an agile tribe? I invite you to join mine.