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What Is an Agile Team

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.Let’s start right at the beginningDefinition of an agile team: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 AllianceHow did Agile teams originate?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.What is an Agile team?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 The Product Owner The Scrum Master Developers  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: Good communication skills Teamwork and a shared vision Problem solving skills Technical development skills Innovation Consistency and predictability Motivation and drive to perform Let’s look at some of the characteristics of winning teams:They share a sense of ‘teamness’ and are high performing: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: There is a shared sense of purpose and vision Team members are free to express themselves without the fear of being ridiculed for their ideas There are members with diverse skills and these speeds up the thinking process There is high degree of trust among team members, which in turn allows for healthy collaboration and conflict Working towards a common goal enhances the responsibility of individual members who each strive to give their best There is an understanding on how the team’s work impacts the larger organization  They are Cross-Functional: 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. They Contain Two Specialty Roles:  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: Defines the vision of the product and helps the developers understand the same Orders and prioritizes the product backlog  Clearly communicates the user stories to be built Works with the team to ensure that the product built is as per the standard expected by the customer Maximises value 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: Helping the team become self-organized Removing impediments and helping the team wok to its full potential Ensuring that all events take place as scheduled and all concerns are addressed Ensuring that a product of value is delivered at each increment They Have Well-Defined Responsibilities: 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: Assisting the Product Owner in creating Epics Helping the Product Owner in backlog refinement Helping the Product Owner with backlog prioritization and determining sprint length Writing user stories Estimating effort for each sprint Breaking down the approved stories into tasks and creating a task list Creating task deliverables Attending daily meetings Demonstrating deliverables to stakeholders Participating in retrospectives  They are Organized Around Value: 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. They Typically Blend Agile Methods: 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.They power the ART: 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.   They create a culture of collaboration: 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. Common Pitfalls associated with TeamsA team should be made of more than two people and lesser than ten. Agile success is attributed to team size and small teams ensure better co-ordination and collaboration. Just throwing together people in the hope that more numbers of people can work faster, is a mistake. Big teams can be very ambiguous when it comes to allocating tasks.  A common mistake made in Agile is to consider a group to be a team. Just any group of people does not make a team. A team needs to be carefully assembled by considering everyone's skill set and speciality. This diverse and specialist group that makes up the team will work together to deliver exceptional quality and performance. While an individual may contribute to more than one team, they cannot consider themselves to be part of multiple teams. An Agile team requires complete focus of the team members and by not being focused and committed to one team, the individual may experience a breakdown in communication and collaboration which in turn will hamper productivity.  Conclusion 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. 
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What Is an Agile Team

Susan May
Blog
31st Aug, 2021
What Is an Agile Team

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.

Let’s start right at the beginning

Definition of an agile team:

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

How did Agile teams originate?

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.

What is an Agile team?

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 

  • The Product Owner 
  • The Scrum Master 
  • Developers  

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: 

  • Good communication skills 
  • Teamwork and a shared vision 
  • Problem solving skills 
  • Technical development skills 
  • Innovation 
  • Consistency and predictability 
  • Motivation and drive to perform 

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of winning teams:

They share a sense of ‘teamness’ and are high performing:

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: 

  • There is a shared sense of purpose and vision 
  • Team members are free to express themselves without the fear of being ridiculed for their ideas 
  • There are members with diverse skills and these speeds up the thinking process 
  • There is high degree of trust among team members, which in turn allows for healthy collaboration and conflict 
  • Working towards a common goal enhances the responsibility of individual members who each strive to give their best 
  • There is an understanding on how the team’s work impacts the larger organization  

They are Cross-Functional: 

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. 

They Contain Two Specialty Roles:  

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: 

  • Defines the vision of the product and helps the developers understand the same 
  • Orders and prioritizes the product backlog  
  • Clearly communicates the user stories to be built 
  • Works with the team to ensure that the product built is as per the standard expected by the customer 
  • Maximises value 


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: 

  • Helping the team become self-organized 
  • Removing impediments and helping the team wok to its full potential 
  • Ensuring that all events take place as scheduled and all concerns are addressed 
  • Ensuring that a product of value is delivered at each increment 

They Have Well-Defined Responsibilities: 

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: 

  • Assisting the Product Owner in creating Epics 
  • Helping the Product Owner in backlog refinement 
  • Helping the Product Owner with backlog prioritization and determining sprint length 
  • Writing user stories 
  • Estimating effort for each sprint 
  • Breaking down the approved stories into tasks and creating a task list 
  • Creating task deliverables 
  • Attending daily meetings 
  • Demonstrating deliverables to stakeholders 
  • Participating in retrospectives  

They are Organized Around Value: 

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. 

They Typically Blend Agile Methods: 

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.

They power the ART: 

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.   

They create a culture of collaboration: 

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. 

Common Pitfalls associated with Teams

  • A team should be made of more than two people and lesser than ten. Agile success is attributed to team size and small teams ensure better co-ordination and collaboration. Just throwing together people in the hope that more numbers of people can work faster, is a mistake. Big teams can be very ambiguous when it comes to allocating tasks.  
  • A common mistake made in Agile is to consider a group to be a team. Just any group of people does not make a team. A team needs to be carefully assembled by considering everyone's skill set and speciality. This diverse and specialist group that makes up the team will work together to deliver exceptional quality and performance. 
  • While an individual may contribute to more than one team, they cannot consider themselves to be part of multiple teams. An Agile team requires complete focus of the team members and by not being focused and committed to one team, the individual may experience a breakdown in communication and collaboration which in turn will hamper productivity.  

Conclusion 

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. 

Susan

Susan May

Writer, Developer, Explorer

Susan is a gamer, internet scholar and an entrepreneur, specialising in Big Data, Hadoop, Web Development and many other technologies. She is the author of several articles published on Zeolearn and KnowledgeHut blogs. She has gained a lot of experience by working as a freelancer and is now working as a trainer. As a developer, she has spoken at various international tech conferences around the globe about Big Data.


Website : https://www.zeolearn.com

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