The Strengths of Agile Teams

Effective agile teams consist of people working intensively together to deliver value. The journey for agile teams to flourish and become effective can be challenging. This article explores what strengths agile teams can have and how to leverage these strengths.

Talking with people I notice that there’s much unclearness on what agile team really are, why collaboration matters, and how to work together effectively in teams. The aim of my article series on agile teams is to increase awareness of agile team working and help you to get better in working together in and with agile teams.

This is the fifth article in the series on agile teams. Previously I published these articles:

  1. The series started with the article What are agile teams? where I explored how agile teams look and what makes them differ from a group or any other format in which people work together.
  2. The article Working together in agile teams dived into what people say when they don’t want to work in a team and how you can start working together effectively.
  3. In the article Why People Want to Work in Agile Teams I explored why you want to work in a team, what’s in it for you?
  4. The article Establishing Effective Agile Teams explores things that make the difference between a group of people, a team, or a real effective agile team.

Agile teams have strengths

People sometimes ask me what it is that makes agile teams different? The biggest difference is the strengths that such teams have, the qualities that make them stand out.

Examples of strengths that I see in well-performing agile teams are:

  • Team members have the skills that help them to communicate and collaborate in multiple ways. If they run into difficulties, they try something else.
  • By being capable to manage themselves teams can get rid of micromanagement by product, project, or line managers.
  • Team members perceive less pressure, they are truly able to work at a constant pace. This also significantly reduces the risk of burn-out.
  • Teams are able to recognize impediments early, and deal with them effectively.
  • It’s easier for such teams to stand up against unnecessary outside interference. They do take in feedback, but remain in control themselves.
  • Teams can live with things that are unclear as they are able to raise issues, clarify, and solve them themselves.

Organizations with teams that possess one or more of the skills listed above might see significant improvement in team performance and the value that is delivered by teams.

Leveraging team strengths

Strong teams can get even stronger if they manage to leverage their skills and the strengths that they have. This kind of positive improvement can work wonders; the biggest advantage is that instead of asking people to stop doing something and change you’re asking them to do more of what they are already doing and what they are good at.

If teams want to improve their performance and continuously become better in the things that they are doing great, I recommend doing strengths-based retrospectives. Solution-focused retrospective techniques help teams to increase their awareness of their strengths and exploit them to deal with the challenges that they are facing.

Improving strengths organizational-wide

If you want to leverage strengths between teams to improve the organization as a whole, then you can use one or more of the approaches listed below:

  • Use Open Spaces to identify strengths and connect people who possess them with people who are interested in developing them.
  • Build Communities of Practice (CoP) where people share their experiences and learn from each other.
  • Arrange contests where people and teams can showcase their outcomes together with the strengths that enable them to produce them.
  • Play games with people from different teams to recognize strengths and arrange for people to pair up and help each other. A possible exercise is Learning by Sharing Challenges, described in my book The Agile Self-assessment Game.

There’s a special edition of the Agile Self-assessment Game aimed at organizational-wide improvement. With this serious card game, organizations can discover how agile their teams are and what they can do to increase their agility to deliver more value to their customers and stakeholders.

The Agile Self-assessment Game – Corporate Edition consists of the basic Agile cards and expansions for Scrum, DevOps, Kanban, and Business Agility, playing suggestions and experience stories, paperback books, multi-team license, kick-off training and Free Lifetime Support; all in one buy for a reduced price!

Share your team strengths

Becoming effective as an agile team can be challenging. I, together with the readers of this blog, love to hear what worked for you, and how you became a more effective team. What agile values helped you to become a better team, and how you accomplished that. Please share what you learned by commenting on this article!

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Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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