Team Habits for Reliable Results

Last week, the Humanizing Work Meetup session was about “Habits & Strategies of Successful Agile Teams.” We discussed how habits work at the organization, team, and individual level. We looked at how you can build strategies out of multiple habits that reinforce each other to create a larger outcome. And we had interesting deep dives into topics like estimating and metrics on Agile teams. It was lively and interactive.


Habits have three parts:

  1. A cue or trigger
  2. A behavior or routine that happens in response to the trigger
  3. A reward that reinforces the association between the trigger and behavior

If you want to adopt a new habit, it’s important to identify a natural trigger for it that already happens as well as a good reward to make the habit sticky.

The Habit Loop

Let’s look at an example…

Suppose your team wants to adopt slicing big work items into small increments of value (e.g., user stories). Perhaps you’ve downloaded our story splitting flowchart and even done a little practice with the story splitting patterns. But it hasn’t yet become a habit for your team.

The first move is to identify a trigger for the new habit. What’s the thing that already happens in the life of your team that would come right before the behavior of pulling out the story splitting poster and having a conversation about splitting a work item?

Maybe it’s an estimate of a certain size. Perhaps it’s just a sense that a conversation about the size or contents of the item is taking too long. Agree on the trigger and what you’re going to do the next time it happens.

Next, look at the reward side of the habit loop. In this case, it’s probably a feeling of confidence and ease around refinement, planning, and execution.

As you get started with a new habit, it won’t be automatic. When the trigger occurs, you’ll have to choose to do the behavior. And then after doing the behavior, you may need to deliberately take note of the reward. But after several repetitions, it’ll become a choice you make every time without even realizing you’ve made a choice.

What’s a habit you’d like to establish on your team?

Join the Conversation

To make it easy for people to engage freely in the live discussion, we’ve decided not to record these sessions. So, we can’t point you to a recording of this one. But you can join the conversation at a future meetup. Sign up here.

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