Some organizations are better prepared, equipped and determined than others to unleash their agile teams and put them in a position to succeed. They’re wisely doing the right things, and they’re just as wisely not doing the wrong things — which can be a tougher challenge and a greater accomplishment, since old habits die hard and the cultural shift from traditional ways of working to an agile framework is major, not minor.
To profile the role models worth emulating — and highlight the cautionary examples worth avoiding — here are seven do’s and don’ts for agile team success:
Agile Team Do’s:
- Do empower agile teams to be self-organizing and self-managed. Constantly escalating issues to upper management grinds progress and momentum down to a crawl.
- Do install a Scrum Master (or other gatekeeper) on agile teams to filter, authorize and allocate new requests. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before a manageable backlog becomes an impenetrable backforest.
- Do use a task management tool that checks these boxes: simple to use, provides real-time visibility, and lets team members work they way they want. Anything less is a liability instead of an asset.
- Do staff agile teams with cross-functional professionals who bring relevant knowledge and skills to the table. Seniority is irrelevant and groupthink is the enemy.
- Do encourage agile teams to be experimental and creative in pursuit of smarter and faster ways of working. On traditional teams, the guiding principle is “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. On agile teams, the guiding principle is “if it isn’t broken, let’s see if we can make it better”.
- Do reward and recognize team achievements vs. individual accomplishments. On agile teams, either everyone makes it to the finish line together, or nobody does.
- Do remember that agile teams need a break from the action every now and then. Heading out as a group to a movie, to the bowling alley, to the golf course — or anywhere else where sprints and stand-up meetings are forbidden — is a wise investment.
Agile Team Don’ts:
- Don’t expect agile teams to survive — let alone thrive — if surrounding teams fail to understand how agile works. Quality training and strong policy enforcement are essential.
- Don’t assume that the only methodology that works is Scrum. Many agile teams adopt a blended approach (combination of two or more agile methods, techniques, or frameworks) or a hybrid approach (combination of agile methods with other non-agile methods, techniques, or frameworks).
- Don’t be obsessed with maximizing human resources. Build-in some slack time to collaborate within the team and meet with customers. While this typically creates some idleness (i.e. some team members may not be consistently working at 100% capacity), this is a small price to pay for the benefits of higher quality work and more satisfied customers — not to mention alert vs. exhausted team members.
- Don’t believe that agile teams must be co-located. Teams can be distributed, provided that they use a cloud-based task management solution that was designed for agile teams — and not use spreadsheets, emails and other ad hoc tools that don’t even work teams who work in the same office, let alone for those who may work in different countries.
- Don’t just focus on working faster and releasing faster. Agile is also about planning faster, and making intelligent use of templates and programs.
- Don’t buy into the notion that bigger is better when it comes to the optimal number of agile team members. Larger teams have more knowledge capital, but building consensus and pivoting take too long. Most often, less is more.
- Don’t let agile teams become paranoid about failing — because if that happens, they won’t try to do things better. With this being said, agile teams should never fail the same way twice!
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