Based in Glasgow, Scotland, Valerie McLean believes that people, collaboration and communication can achieve amazing things. Currently spending her days as an agile coach and mum of one.

What is agile? Part 3: Inspect and adapt yourself

As a scrum master, I thrive on learning. I use every situation I find myself in as an opportunity to learn and develop my skills - take what I observe and find and work out which areas of my life these can influence - both in a professional and personal space.

From a personal kanban board to help me decide what homebaking to do, to listening to agile podcasts in the car, every day is a new opportunity to learn.

On a professional level, I think it is really important to have the means to broaden your horizons and expose yourself to different scenarios and ways of working. People in the past have spent decades working in the same job and that is great - we all need subject matter experts - but there must come a point where you simply go through the motions, stop learning and lose the desire to improve. Everything in life can get a bit stale when you repeatedly do the same things, with the same people, with the same outcomes.

In software development, especially in agile environments, your ways of working and tools are all similar, but the agile toolbox is so vast that it can feel difficult to find the tools that will work for your team. Saying that, every team is different, so what works for one team, may not work for another.

Relationships and team balance is fragile. Although we like to think that we can work individually just as well as in a team, it’s amazing how much of an impact one person being on holiday or a new addition to the team can have. Suddenly the goalposts have changed and you have to be able to adapt to that.

That is why I think change is so important. To work in an environment where you are encouraged to move around, try new things, work on different projects with different people and different technologies. A new scrum master, developer, product owner, each and every one brings new values, new insights, new knowledge.

In these situations it is key that all team members, new and old, show a bit of humility and willingness to learn from each other. What worked before might not work now. The new team member might have an idea which could help the team. The team might have a way of working that the new team member has never considered before.

Don't say:

What we do now works.

Instead say:

Let’s explore new ways to try this, we might find something that works better.

An open mind is key - other ways of working aren't wrong, just different. That is why agile frameworks need to be taken and understood as just that, frameworks, not laws. The people who devise these frameworks make them as lightweight as possible, this is to give you just enough steer to make something effective, but leaving you with enough room for manoeuvre that you can add things to make it work for your team.

So I urge you, keep yourself open to new things, expose your mind to as many new ideas and approaches as you can and accept that every group of people and set of circumstances will most likely work best with a different set up - and it’s not easy to find the balance. Make sure you keep inspecting and adapting to your ever changing situation and surroundings.

Certified Agile Leadership 1 - My experience

The secret’s out – I’ve been a bass player all along!