7 Characteristics Of A High-Performing Agile Team

Agile teams are an important element of project management in software development. Ever wonder how Jazz musicians sometimes become scrum masters?

It’s simple. You can learn to create and manage an agile team from Jazz masters. One can easily draw parallels between managing music bands and agile teams in software development as functionally, both are the same.

Read More: A Comprehensive Guide On Agile Development Process

You shouldn’t be surprised therefore that in order to explain the tenets of scrum or an agile team, you should go beyond the periphery of software development. Now, let’s first understand what is an agile team?

What is an Agile Team?

An agile team is one-extensive team that can take up any job role, task or deadline and accomplish the impossible through systematic planning, approach and strategies. An agile team understands the project completely, breaks it down into fragments or modules, works on them individually or cross-functionally, tests, deploys and completes the project well before a scheduled deadline.

Almost everyone in an agile team has a uniform understanding of a project and its requirements. This allows the team members to back each other up under various circumstances.

There is no secret recipe to becoming an agile team. In order to become an agile team, you need to understand change and learn how to manage it with the best of your abilities. Remember, you have to manage change within your existing resources. Now, let’s understand how do we start an agile team?

How do you start an Agile Team?

Agile is more about keeping a team together by bringing in policies and principles than assembling the right team. Some factors to look for when starting an agile team include –

  1. Team members who are team players as the action of one influences the other.
  2. An attitude of We rather than I
  3. Team members who don’t need micromanagement and can take ownership of tasks
  4. Versatile team members who can take up multiple skills to complete projects and more

The agile teams are ever changing teams and they require an entire shift in your attitude and the way you approach things. That’s why we discuss how does an agile team work?

How Does an Agile Team Work?

Since agile is a systematic and planned process, it generally involves the following workflow.

  1. The product owner or the lead communicates the project requirements, expectations and outcomes from their client.
  2. A team meeting is called for by the product owner once they get a thorough understanding of the project details. The meeting involves team members such as developers, testers, coordinators and more.
  3. Requirements are shared, deadlines are set and backlogs are created.
  4. Scrum master of the project conducts daily scrum sessions to ensure the project development is on track. In case of clarifications or escalations, they are looked into and settled immediately.
  5. A weekly or a bi-weekly sprint meeting is conducted to communicate the progress with clients or stakeholders. The sprint meeting also decides the next phase of the development process.
  6. These sprint sessions and meetings are repeated until the product is developed.
  7. The completed product is delivered to the customer once completed.

It also relates to the way you collaborate and communicate among your peers and team members. Agility is also about how a team as a unit is able to allow switching or extending individual roles and responsibilities to adjust to the project requirement.

What are the Roles in an Agile Team?

Agile is a universal concept that is tweaked according to project or organizational requirements. The four prominent roles in an agile team include the following –

1. Scrum Master – otherwise called a team lead or team coach. They are responsible for owning a project, guiding their team members, planning, resource management and more.

2. Team Member – responsible for the development and delivery of a project.

3. Product Owner – the client-facing representative, who is responsible for RoIs, backlog completions, product demos and more.

4. Stakeholders – involves a spectrum of people such as users, investors, managers, support, executive teams and more.

7 Characteristics of a High-Performing Agile Team

Before understating characteristics of a high performing agile team, first we learn:

What is Agile in Simple Terms?

Agile is a contemporary concept in the software development cycle that allows teams to develop an airtight product with fewer iterations in a lesser time. Instead of a monolithic development strategy, agile involves working on fragments of projects at the same time, making modifications and changes easy and manageable.

Read More: How Software Development has changed over the years?

Now, we discuss following characteristics to build an ultimate agile team:

1. Team self-organization

You need collaborative members, who are proficient at self organization. In the absence of self organization, your teams may appear chaotic. They are likely to struggle in the first stage of a project i.e. while setting it up. In such a scenario, teams are going to produce poor quality results. So, if it is a music band, the music it produces would be lifeless.

2. High level of collaboration

Have you ever heard about “quality circles”? In Japan, it is an important element of producing top quality products with a high degree of collaboration among the team members and engineers.

In fact, Japanese evolved this system to create agile teams after Second World War to compete with their rivals in automobile manufacturing in the West. In “quality circles”, every individual is encouraged to offer their contribution to make a wonderful end product, regardless of what their core responsibilities are. If they have an idea to improve the process, they should share it with the team.

Agile Development

3. Development of T-shaped skills

While developing T-shaped skills, team members do not stick to their predefined roles. They develop additional and related skills keeping the end product in mind. They don’t limit their individual contribution as per their existing skills.

Continuous learning is an important part of team self-organization and developing T-shaped skills. It creates a solid framework to collaborate and work with team agreements to produce the best results. For example, in a music band, the musicians should have an understanding of how multiple instruments are played to create the desired effect.

4. Team agreements

In high performance and agile teams, there are unspoken team agreements, which decide who is going to do what.  It is part of the trade to produce the best results.

Individual roles and responsibilities take a backseat. A common understanding is achieved to decide who will shoulder additional responsibilities so that things are done professionally and not the way amateurs do it.

5. Continuous improvement

Working with the best framework and understanding of the team agreements are not enough to ensure that your team is working in synergy and in a professional manner.

Making continuous improvement in your skills should be a lifetime habit. Keep on developing additional skills, so that you can achieve mastery in your field.

6. Preference to team success over individual achievements

Sometimes team members spoil the entire project, because they want to outshine individually. They ignore team performance and it creates a mess.

The tendency of team members to highlight themselves should take a backseat and the success of the project should be the top priority.

7. Slack

For perfect rhythm, the sudden pause or a moment of silence is just as important as the music being played. It actually proves how agile is your team and how they can suddenly stop themselves to create wonderful effects.

Wrapping Up

Take pause, rethink your strategy and step back if something goes wrong. Agile teams do not allow themselves to go in unintended directions. The scrum is all around us and we experience it everywhere in our daily life.

The most successful teams are agile teams, not just in software development, but almost every field of life. Every member of your software development team should be able to think from a different perspective so as to offer their unique contribution to overall achievement.

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