An Agile transformation of an organization is only as successful as its teams. High performing and motivated teams can help bring in all the benefits of Agile by being self-managed, driving value and ensuring quality products are created. Agile teams can help sustain businesses and ensure a competitive edge. Let’s see what an agile team is and how important they are in the context of modern businesses.
A “team” in the Agile sense is a small group of people, assigned to the same project or effort, nearly all of them on a full-time basis. A small minority of team members may be part-time contributors, or may have competing responsibilities—Agile Alliance
The notion of Agile teams came into existence in 2004 when Kent Beck proposed the idea of a ‘whole team’. An Extreme Programming practice, whole team refers to the idea of a group of people working towards achieving a common goal. The team is generally made up of individuals with different skill sets who work in synergies to ensure a quality outcome.
Nothing beats an Agile team—Scaled Agile
An Agile team is a team that works together to deliver an Agile project. Agile teams are small and self-organized units that are wholly dedicated to one project during its timeline. The Agile team is typically made up of seven to nine team members. Every member contributes towards creating the end product or service to be delivered. The skills and role of individual members depends on the requirement of the project and the Agile framework that is used. Agile teams are cross-functional.
In the Scrum framework, teams are made up of three roles
All Agile teams, at their core, have certain traits and chief among them is the desire to collaborate and excel through continuous improvement.
Other characteristics of Agile teams include:
All for one and one for all. That should be the guiding philosophy of Agile teams. The team takes responsibility together, shares successes and at the same time also shares failures. In fact, this sense of working together as a team helps teams become high performing. This is because:
Agile teams that are successful are cross-functional. This means that each team will have team members with different specializations who work together to attain a common goal. For example, a Scrum team may have a tester, a developer, an analyst etc. While they have different roles and responsibilities, each one contributes towards the same sprint goal. The individual team members are selected by the product owner and the scrum master for their individual talents. Cross-functionality reduces development time and other delays that may be caused when individual team members are working in silos.
We have seen above that Scrum teams also have a Product Owner and a Scrum Master. These are two specialty roles in Agile teams that guide the team and define the tasks that need to be performed.
The Product Owner defines the product backlog and prioritizes the items. Product Owners represent the business side of the product and are the bridge that links the developers with the stakeholders. They ensure that the team has understood the vision of the product to be built and they are always on track when it comes to maintaining the technical and conceptual integrity of the product being built.
Some of the responsibilities of the Product Owner include:
The Scrum Master is the servant leader of the team, and their main job is to ensure that the team can perform without any hindrances and that Scrum principles are being followed. While the 2020 Scrum, Guide has shifted the emphasis from a servant leader to a true leader, the underlying principles of servant leadership are still valued.
Some of the responsibilities of the Scrum Master include:
All Agile teams have well defined responsibilities based on the type of team they are. For example, teams that are technology focused will work on building technical solutions and so forth. Team responsibilities include:
Agile is all about delivering value and keeping customers happy and a successful Agile team is aware of this. So, how do they go about ensuring that value is delivered every time? They do this by maintaining utmost transparency and ensuring that they are following Agile practices while developing products. By adopting the continuous delivery pipeline, teams constantly collaborate, explore, integrate and deploy product features to ensure that value is always being delivered.
While most teams may pick either one of the frameworks, experienced teams may play around with multiple frameworks, taking the best practices from each. You may find teams combining Scrum, Kanban and XP practices to enhance value of the product being delivered. Teams also apply design thinking and follow test driven development to ensure that the focus is always on quality.
In scaling frameworks like the Scaled Agile Framework, teams work towards launching the Agile Release Trains so that real business value can be realized. The teams build and evolve the solution and ensure that the product being released is continuously enhanced. Scaled Agile Framework requires teams to plan, deploy, demo and learn together as this helps in improvement of the team as a whole.
Agile teams collaborate, within their own team and with those outside the team. This culture of collaboration is what sets Agile teams apart from others. It helps them understand organizational objectives and the new innovations or technologies that are being adopted by the organization. Their shared vision and shared responsibilities keep them motivated to continuously deliver value to customers.
Agile teams ae made up of dedicated team members who have a common vision and that is to deliver value and ensure that the stakeholders get what they want. High performing Agile teams are built over time as it requires team members to have a high level of trust between them and share a passion for quality and excellence. But for any organizations that wants to become Agile and grow, the solution is to start by building a high performing, committed and motivated Agile team.