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A team is agile when the right combination of individuals sway to the beat of the agile drum. Collaboration becomes communal, communication coherent and deliveries happen like clockwork. But, like clockwork, agile ways of working require precision and like-mindedness. All of the pieces should work in tandem, and everyone must meet expectations to be able to perform at agile levels. 

In a sense, going agile is kind of like baking a cake. Before you can even start thinking about licking the bowl, you have to make sure that you have all of the right ingredients for your batter. In our case, the right ingredients are all about having the right individuals on your agile team. Just like when baking a cake, if you don’t follow the instructions to a tee there’s absolutely no way your cake is going to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

To reap the benefits of agile, you’ve got to start with making sure that everyone on your team shares a few important characteristics that are essential to agile. 

  • Flexibility
  • Tolerance for risk
  • Significant technical experience
  • Drive & Motivation
  • Strong desire for collaboration and continuous improvement

Specifically, McKinsey & Company mapped out the following characteristics as critical to cultivating a high-performing agile team: the ability to handle ambiguity without losing focus; focus on outcomes over processes and a strong capacity to work as part of a team. The research shows that agile proponents are willing to do things differently, are agreeable and straightforward and are self-directed.

But even when you have the right team in place, there are still plenty of issues that can put a damper on your performance. Agile ways of working require a commitment to excellence and strong discipline so that your team doesn’t drop the ball. To make sure that your team continuously delivers high quality products as if by magic, you’ve got to always keep an eye out for these warning signs.

  1. We want all the requirements before we estimate —  Agile is all about making do and being flexible, even if that means you don’t have all the info. Focus on the task at hand so that you finish your sprint on time. That way, your team doesn’t get bogged down in details of requirements that may not even make it into the final product.
  2. This is what the customer wants, so this is what we do — Agile encourages teams to focus on providing value to the customer. If the customer has a request that doesn’t mesh with the product’s values, it’s your responsibility to cut it out and focus on providing benefits.
  3. Retrospectives don’t bring improvements — When your team does retrospectives just because that’s what agile teams do, there’s a problem. Sometimes instead of reflecting on improvements and detailing specific actions to improve the process, teams use retrospectives as therapeutic sessions to vent. If you see your team discussing the same problem over multiple retrospectives, it’s time to get involved.
  4. There are too many details in future iteration planning — Agile teams know that the future’s not set in stone, and so don’t waste too much time detailing their iteration backlogs. When you see that iterations planned for months ahead have the same level of detail as your next iteration, then you’re not agile. Agile embraces transformative change that takes place from sprint to sprint, so by planning so far ahead you’re actually eliminating the benefit provided by learning from the mistakes along the way.
  5. The team is working long hours and weekends — Working at a sustainable pace is one of the 12 principles listed in the Agile Manifesto. If you see your team working unsustainable hours to finish a project, then the project doesn’t fit. Working long hours negatively impacts morale and the quality of the final product.  

Clarizen Go’s powerful task management solution helps teams simplify work processes and get more done. Teams use Clarizen Go to ease the transition into agile — they get the freedom to work the way they want by personalizing workflows and boards. With Clarizen Go, it’s easy to adopt more agile ways of working!


Yoav Boaz
Yoav Boaz, VP Product

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