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Agile team- 3 recipes of a new chemistry

Adrian Sita
2 Aug, 2019
3 m read

What is an Agile team?

An agile team is a group of people that have an agile mindset. But what is really a great agile team?

I like all the time to bring into the context this example: If you have a bunch of strawberries and you squeeze them; it means that you have a strawberry jam? Not. You need some sugar (not that it is good, but you need it) some heat and a person to stay near it and chew in it at the right temperature all the time.

So, what is different with a great agile team... what about?

  • people chemistry
  • people that share the same goals
  • having the right support from the management team
  • having a culture based on learning activities
  • being self-organised

The agile team is self-organised and cross-functional, which is necessary to produce a delightful working increment of product, overcoming project management challenges. They are eager to learn and so their focus is on rapid product development so they can get feedback.

As the SCRUM framework suggests, the most effective agile teams range in size from 3 to 9 members. Ideally, agile teams are working into the same physical space. Team members are 100% dedicated to the teams (otherwise, they are not great agile teams). As I like to say they 'SUCCEED' or 'FAIL' together, so if this is the mindset of all the team members they are already on the SUCESS road as a team.

agile team

How is it managed?

Agile encourages self-managing teams, where team members decide who will perform the work within the next period. From proper experience, I can say that the right style of leadership that I use in my companies and the one appropriate with a growth mindset is servant leadership. The leaders support the team's approach in what they do.

Servant leaders (usually they embrace the agile project management principles) should also look at other processes that are lengthy, causing bottlenecks and impeding a team’s or organisation’s agility. The servant leader can change or remove organisational impediments (could be the culture, other departments, procedures, etc) to support delivery teams.

Success leaders having servant leadership mindset enable other leaders (because this is what great leaders do) to become more agile and facilitate the team’s

  • promoting self-awareness
  • listening
  • helping people grow
  • coaching vs. controlling
  • promoting safety, respect, and trust
  • promoting the energy and intelligence of others

Agile teams' practice

Agile teams are on so many levels of maturity, but great agile teams rarely limit their practices to one agile approach. Why?

  • product/project with different contexts, varied mix of team member skills and backgrounds
  • the various components of the product under development;
  • the scaling, criticality, complexity, and regulatory constraints of the business

A new team can use agile frameworks as they are. But a team that is already self-organising cannot use a framework as it is because it supposed that the members are already a behavior and a mindset of ‘being agile’. So, the team tailors the practices as a bespoke to their mindset to deliver value regularly. Often, teams practice their own special agile blend.

Cross-functional agile teams produce functional product increments frequently. That is because the teams collectively own the work (they are accountable for it) and together have all the skills to deliver completed work.

Team members in great agile teams work to collaborate in various ways (such as pairing, swarming, and mobbing) so they do not fall into the trap of a waterfall instead of collaborative work.

Great agile teams

Agile projects enjoy project team structures that improve collaboration within and among the teams. Collaboration between team members boost productivity and facilitate innovative problem solving:

  • Dedicated people
    • focus and productivity
    • small team, fewer than 9 people
  • Cross-functional team members
    • deliver often
    • deliver finished value
    • provide feedback from inside the team and from others, such as the product owner
  • Remote teams
    • better communication
    • improved team dynamics
    • knowledge sharing

Successful agile teams embrace the growth mindset, where people believe they can learn new skills. When the team and the servant leaders believe they can all learn, everyone becomes more capable.

The impact of a self-organising team is big (therefore when management at Twitter has changed they fired first 13 engineers that were the best skilled in the company) with breaking:

  • Communication
  • Framework
  • Team mood
  • Team velocity
  • Encourage Collaboration

If a team member is late to stand up, they make coffee for the others.  Nothing serious but will soon start bringing the team mentality across with personalities opening up based on these.

Having the right agile team covers. a long road to success.

Some (final) thoughts

Unfortunately, it is one of the hardest things to build. Fortunately, with the right mindset, culture, and approach you can build it, so this depends on you!

This article is part of a bigger topic called: 

Agile Project Management

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