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It’s well-known that the wrong tools can sound the death knell for a business agile approach (yes, we’re looking at you email and spreadsheets). Instead of leveraging efficiencies in key areas to achieve strategic goals faster, the day-to-day work experience is characterized by chaos, confusion and conflict. It’s more apt to call this mutation business fragile than business agile.

Fast moving teams

However, there is arguably an even bigger threat to the promise of business agile than bad tools. It’s a menace that tends to slink around in the shadows for a while, before suddenly exploding on the scene and wreaking havoc in classic disaster movie fashion: bad teamwork.

7 Best Practices for Agile Teams

Naturally, just as how it’s not a good idea to discover that a car isn’t road-worthy while rocketing on the Autobahn, enterprises don’t want to discover that they have systemic teamwork problems after they adopt a business agile approach one. To put their teams in a position to perform, and their enterprise in a position to succeed, here are seven best practices for agile teams to keep in mind:

  1. Create cross-functional teams that are tasked specifically to solve problems. These teams should complement fixed teams that always need to be part of the mix.
  2. Make all work visible, so that teams can quickly and accurately prioritize their work on a daily basis (or in some cases, throughout the day). The focus must be on adding value, and not just on completing a pre-set list of tasks.
  3. Transparently connect teams to the big picture, so they can see how everyone’s contribution (and not just their own) impacts and influences the overall objective
  4. Allow teams to design communication protocols and practices based on what works best for them. Where applicable, roll out best practices so that others teams benefit from smarter and faster ways of communicating and collaborating.
  5. Establish feedback loops between teams so they share information on a regular basis vs. only when a problem erupts or conflict breaks out. In an agile framework, teams must resolve problems through consensus-building rather than endless discussions or repeated appeals to authority.  
  6. Practice agile at the top for applicable activities, such as strategy development, resource allocation, improving innovation and collaboration, etc. Aside from the efficiency wins, executive buy-in demonstrates commitment to agile and, as noted by Harvard Business Review, helps decision-makers: speak the language of the teams they are empowering, experience common challenges, recognize and stop behaviors that impede agile teams, and learn how to simplify and focus work.
  7. Recognize and reward team-based achievements in both big and small ways. For the former, quarterly or annual awards can be given to agile teams that identify new processes, establish best practices, or contribute in other valuable ways. For the latter, teams that contributed to a recent win can be quickly (but meaningfully) recognized in daily stand-up meetings, weekly status meetings, and so on.   

Go ‘Business Agile’ or Go Home

Teamwork has always been important and valuable. But in a business agile context, it’s not just a nice-to-have piece of the puzzle. It fundamentally determines whether the experience is going to be rewarding or regrettable. Superstars must sacrifice personal wins and buy into the team philosophy, just as slackers need to dig deep and find a higher gear.

Yes, individual performance still matters, and must be monitored and managed. But accountability in business agile takes place at the group level—not by preference, but by necessity. It simply can’t work otherwise. Teams have to align, bond, synergize and exploit collective intelligence, or they disintegrate and inflict damage. There is no middle ground. They either go business agile…or they go home.  

Viken Eldermir
VIken Eldermir, GM Americas