Having an agile team can make all the difference in how your company functions. Agile teams are known to be more flexible and high performing, enabling you to ship out new products faster and stay competitive. However, simply calling a team agile doesn’t guarantee success. Companies have to work at being agile and that requires having certain skill sets.
There are six important characteristics a team must have to be considered agile. We will discuss those characteristics here and then discuss how your company can make its teams more agile.
Communication: Is Your Team Communicating Enough?
Communication is vital whether or not your team is considered agile. It’s important to always keep the lines of communication open, whether that’s through regular team meetings, email communication, or some other method, such as a Slack channel. Both team members and management should be able to give and receive constructive feedback on a regular basis, outside of the traditional annual reviews. While those annual reviews are still important, it’s good to be proactive throughout the year to ensure that your team is performing well.
Another important aspect of communication is expectations. Managers should lay out clear expectations for projects right from the start, but also provide opportunities for team members to ask questions throughout the process. There should also be a plan in place to automatically update team members about any changes that might need to be made to a project. Frequent communication is key because it’s the only way to create the feedback loop that is a must for every high-performance agile team.
Cross-functionality is defined as a team with various functional expertise working toward a common goal. A cross-functional team will include at least one person each from multiple departments within a company. A well-rounded cross-functional team might have members from human resources, marketing, finance, and more.
The key to a successful cross-functional team lies in the ability of team members to work well together toward a singular vision. From the start, they have defined expectations and allow members the opportunity to let their strengths shine, while also learning other skills that will make them an asset to their current team and to other teams in the future.
Since agile tech teams require feedback from different teams so that product and software changes can happen faster, effective cross-functionality is a must.
A good agile team has the ability to collaborate irrespective of their strengths and weaknesses. The team members combine their strengths and weaknesses to create a team that is able to achieve multiple goals. Collaboration is best achieved when expectations are clearly set from the beginning of a project and teams are able to put their best foot forward.
A good agile team will be able to manage themselves without having to constantly be guided by a manager or a project leader. This isn’t to say they don’t need guidance, especially at the beginning of a project, but they should be able to take a concept and run with it, as long as they have the necessary resources available to them. A good agile team is also self-motivated and eager to prove themselves.
Is there alignment on performance objectives with other departments of the company?
As mentioned above, it’s important to measure performance objectives throughout the year and not just during the annual review period. Moreover, performance objectives should be aligned across the entire company. All employees should be striving for excellence, whether that’s within their team or within their individual role.
In this case, there should be an emphasis on product delivery rather than project delivery. If an organization hasn’t transitioned to a product structure, there may be issues in getting team members to align with one another. In such a case, the leadership should take on an expanded role in helping teams become more cohesive.
As with any business, people are driven by metrics. There should be tangible goals that teams are working toward and they should see the results of those goals. The measurement of goals should be clear and concise. Setting tangible goals with measurable objectives can help the leadership see where teams are excelling and where they are struggling.
There are many metrics an agile team can measure, including sprint burndown, team velocity, release frequency, and delivery speed. When looking at metrics, it’s important to look at what went well and what needs work. By measuring these specific metrics, teams will have measurable goals to strive for.
It’s okay if you don’t currently work for or have agile technology teams at your company. It’s easy to turn things around and create an agile team that can work for you instead of against you. Just follow the recommendations above and your company will run like a well-oiled machine in no time at all.
If you feel like your company needs further support in becoming agile, Santex can provide you with the tools and resources necessary to help your team become more agile and better able to keep with the agile teams that already exist at other companies. Be sure to check out our most recent e-book, Best Practices for Outsourcing Development, for more information.