How to Build a High Performing Agile Team

• Agile

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams – Agile Manifesto

Agile teams form the backbone of the Agile framework. The minimalist, results-first approach Agile advocates can only be successfully followed by a team that operates based on that same concept.

Agile teams are self-organizing and can:

  • create a strategy,
  • execute the strategy,
  • and adjust their efforts to suit changing circumstances —with minimal bureaucracy.

In this article, we explore what an agile team should look like, how to put one together, and how to keep them running as efficiently and productively as possible.

What is an agile team?

An agile team is a tightly-knit group of cross-functional experts, entirely focused on developing a product they’re closely involved with. Agile teams are designed for time and resource efficiency so bigger projects can quickly be broken down and tackled in less time than a legacy team would.

What are the main roles in an agile team and how do they work?

One highlight of agile teams is their self-organization, which entails that tasks & team management are collectively managed between the different team roles to cut out bureaucratic bottlenecks between leadership chains. The main roles within an agile team are:

  • Product Owner functions essentially as the representative of the stakeholders and the end customers of the project. The product owner mirrors the concerns of the end-users and directs the team in building them out as product features. The product owner:
    • Collects user suggestions, feature requests, ideas, and tips.
    • Transforms user stories/feature requests into targets for the agile team,
    • Manages and prioritizes the product backlog, and
    • Serves as a channel between the team and the end-users.
  • The Team lead is responsible for directly overseeing the team to ensure their targets prioritized by the product owner are executed on time and on schedule. The team leads:
    • Breaks down targets into manageable tasks,
    • Preemptively identifies obstacles and removes them beforehand,
    • Distributes tasks to team members, and tracks their progress, and
    • Identifies opportunities for improvement in the project delivery process.
  • Team members are the moving parts of the agile team that actually carry out the goals created by the product owner and broken into tasks by the team lead. Team members do the work and point out where the project delivery process can be improved to enhance time & resource efficiency. Team members:
    • Collaborate as a team,
    • Identify obstacles for the team lead to address, and,
    • Provide feedback on the entire project delivery process.
  • The Stakeholder is either a direct or indirect user whose opinion mirrors what the product should look like. In a way, the entire team’s target is to meet the needs of the stakeholders who make use of the product. Stakeholders also include other relevant personnel or staff from other teams whose input contributes to the final solution the end-user needs.

Key characteristics of a successful agile team

For a team to successfully function as an agile one, there are five scrum values that must be adopted by all team members. They include:

Commitment

Commitment requires members of an agile team to make the necessary input required to get the job done. Whether it’s research, technical input, or some physical labor, commitment demands that as long as it’s within your capacity, that team members should do what it takes to get the job done.

Courage

Courage in an agile team means that team members must be open enough to voice their concerns concerning their capacity and how long work can take to be delivered.

Openness

Openness demands that everyone must do their best to make any relevant information they have access to available to other team members with minimal friction. Openness works best in an atmosphere where team members know they’re free to speak their mind and offer feedback, and that their opinions or suggestions will be considered.

Focus

Focus entails that their targets must be kept forward and center until they are achieved

Respect

Respect lays the foundation for agile since people can only do their best work among and with those they value.

How do you form an effective agile team?

Considering how dynamic agile teams are designed to be, it’s a sure bet that a lot goes into building them into the sustainable and productive units they end up becoming.

Agile teams go through a molding process that takes a bunch of individual experts and builds them into a self-organizing unit that sees itself and functions as one. The process involved in building an agile team can best be demonstrated with the five-step Tuckman’s stages of group development, namely:

  • Forming. This is the stage where individual experts are introduced to each other and given the groundwork, rules, and agenda for the agile team. Team members get to know each other as well as why they’re being put together, the objective/target.
  • Storming. At this point, differences may begin to show up as team members begin to voice out their opinions which other members may not necessarily agree with. Friction arises, with team members not being entirely comfortable obeying the team lead and product owner’s directions. This is the stage where members can go ahead and resolve any individual differences that may prevent full integration in forming a cohesive unit.
  • Norming. The norming stage is the point where team members begin to collaborate more smoothly since they now realize it’s easy to get their work done if they understand one another.
  • Performing. With the cohesion and empathy the team has built up, it effectively begins to function as a single unit, taking on tasks and delivering targets.
  • Adjourning. After a fixed timeframe, the team takes a retrospective look at their performance, notes what worked, what didn’t, and areas needing improvement. At this stage, team members are recognized for the roles they’ve played and can be reassigned to other duties within the team in the future.

Agile teams can be scaled for any organization regardless of their size

While initially, agile teams may be demanding to build from scratch, once they’re set in motion, they begin to function as self-organizing units that can work independently. This translates into faster project delivery, more efficient resource usage, and organization-wide clarity that makes it easy to see where you’re at, what’s working, and what can be tweaked to get more done.

And again, there’s the question of equipping your team to do their best work while going agile. In order to successfully integrate agile, you need a results-focused communication system designed for minimal back-and-forth. And, that’s where a project management tool like Kissflow Project comes in.

Kissflow Project helps you get your entire Agile team on the same page and streamline their work for better results. You can share files, offer contextual feedback, and stay on top of the backlog. If you’re looking to build self-organizing agile teams that improve over time, an agile platform is the way to go. Try out Kissflow Project right away.