Characteristics of Successful Agile Teams

In this guest blog post, Ravindra Savaram explores the characteristics and habits of successful agile teams and shares tips and ideas on building teams.

In this digital transformation era, every company is striving hard to produce teams that yield predictable outcomes and provide software that satisfies the timelines and demands of the user. Today, following agile practices and methodologies has become the norm for such teams to meet the requirements of businesses. Agile is an iterative approach to software development and project management that enables teams to provide value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches.

You cannot rate your team as successful just by following the agile methodology. They have to overcome various challenges in order to transform into highly productive teams. While coaching enables teams to get on the right path, it is the responsibility of the team to embrace agile principles and sustain the effectiveness in their outcome and efficiency in the activities.

Agile software development isn’t just a series of procedures or principles but a mindset that every member of the team must cultivate in their own way. Having a great agile team in place is integral for any project’s success. This article outlines few characteristics that go beyond the agile basics to facilitate and promotes the habits which lead to high performance in the agile software development teams.

Collaboration

In a successful agile team, the team members work together on features. In a non-agile team, it’s common for people to take requirements or features and work alone on them, but, on a well-running agile team, that’s uncommon. In a successful agile team, a tester or two and several developers work together to ensure they, as a team, have finished a story. Here, you can observe testers and developers working together to build a test automation framework for the project team and several testers working together to build tests.

The agile team members work together to start, define, and complete the features. As the successful agile teams collaborate to finish features, they avoid the problem of having many features started but none getting finished at the end of the iteration.

Obtaining Feedback

Obtaining feedback is a major factor that contributes to the success of an agile team. The members of a successful agile team use iterations so they can do something and obtain some feedback. They build in increments so their customers will have a chance to offer feedback on their work to date. One of the behaviors of the members of a successful agile team is the capability to take small steps and obtain feedback on whatever work they have finished.

Adaptability

Similar to every other project, conditions are not always favorable in agile projects. The agile team may not have acceptance criteria for every feature, a team room may not be present, and they may not remove obstacles. Despite all these things, the team has to get the work done. So, the members of a productive agile team are adaptable to any kind of situation(be it the ideal or the worst situation).

The agile team must be willing to work outside the area of their expertise but not very far from it. This doesn’t mean they must work in other areas about which they don’t have any idea. Take, for example, a marketer should not turn into a developer(unless he or she wants to). This means that if someone is quite comfortable with the database, then they should try to work on the GUI. We often see these instances happening when people collaborate to swarm around a feature.

Being Intrepid

Being intrepid is one of the major characteristics of a successful agile team. Its indications include the members of the team challenging each other, and very less filtering of communication(communicating it like it is). A larger part of this is to exhibit a sense of vulnerability or the willingness to say “I don’t know.” It also includes the ability to ask for help promptly when you need it. The team should always be self-directed and exhibit high performance to engage in its continuous improvement and overall dynamics efforts.

Engage Completely

The members of a successful agile team will have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. They always try to find ways to share their knowledge, learn various new things, and enhance their skills. They invest money and time in employee development. Also, all team members must be able to see where workloads stand at all times, and individuals must be ready to share their theories on the status of their projects.

For example, the agile team incorporates frequent daily stand-up meetings. These are short, highly focused meetings designed to keep team members on task. Standups help provide daily transparency into the development process, so all team members, whether they are onsite or working remotely, have a good sense of their project’s status. Standups help keep team members honest and the discussion they facilitate can identify obstacles that may be impeding development. Each of these points is important in achieving the right mix of team members, which is particularly critical for agile success.

An example of a company which successfully uses agile methodology is Spotify. Going Agile has allowed Spotify to be faster, better, and cheaper than industry Goliaths like Google, Amazon, and Apple. Spotify ensures its Scrum masters are also experienced Agile coaches. By employing “squads” and “tribes,” Spotify makes sure its teams are continuously deploying software and sprinting. Knowing when to cut off slow teams is crucial to elegant Agile in Spotify.

The most popular Agile methodologies used by practitioners(including me) today consists of the following: Scrum, XP (eXtreme Programming), DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method), FDD (Feature-Driven Development), ASD (Adaptive Software Development), Crystal, and LSD (Lean Software Development). Also, while Kanban is not considered an Agile development method, it is commonly used in conjunction with Agile methods as a means for increasing efficiency.

If you decide to work on an agile method, you have to choose which method is best for your team based on the characteristics such as project size, team size, iteration length, roles and responsibilities, virtual team support, and risk mitigation level. According to me, the most popular Agile methods are Scrum and XP, and they are very much aligned in their practices.

Lean software development (LSD), more commonly referred to as “Lean,” is based on the principles of lean manufacturing which originated from the Toyota Production System. Lean is based on a set of principles aimed at achieving quality, speed, and customer alignment. This method is commonly adopted by startups.

Improving how teams innovate is a continuous journey, and new methodologies will certainly emerge over time, as well as best practices for software development. Teams will find that different approaches are available and work better for them. But the impact of Agile on product development cannot be understated, with its focus on the customer and the art of collaboration.

Nowadays, it is obvious that all people fully agree with Agile Methodology for software development. So, do I. But we need to know that Agile methodology is not a new thing or a unique experience. It has been used by software development teams for many years before the announcement of Agile manifesto.

As far as I have seen, regardless of which methodology is selected, the most important thing is the commitment of team members. Each team member should become committed to the project instead of involving it.

The other important thing is the daily meetings. It updates people and makes them ready for that day. According to my experience, everything of the agile methodology can be modified except for the daily meeting. It drives the team, so it always should stay in the methodology.

Wrap-Up

The software development is a process that must be agile and collaborative above everything else. So, the agile team should maintain a culture of open knowledge sharing and cooperation throughout. The above characteristics of an agile team will make it successful and productive reflecting in a successful end product.

Savaram Ravindra is a Content Contributor at Mindmajix.com and Tekslate.com.

Building successful teams

Thank you Ravindra Savaram for sharing your thoughts on and experiences with successful agile teams. Collaboration and feedback are key aspects of team working, they are essential to working as a team. Being adaptable and intrepid increases the agility of teams, and engages people to the level where they will be continuous looking for improvements.

Agile helps to deliver faster and better, agile team working helps to deliver high-quality software.  Multi-disciplinary and diverse agile teams are better prepared to deliver quality. Software quality is free, teams that invest time and energy in building the right products with good quality will save money.

Building teams is important, but establishing and maintaining stable teams matters even more. Teams need time to build up, well-established teams can give a boost to your productivity and quality.

If you want to learn more about building successful agile teams, there’s a couple of books that I highly recommend:

 

 

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