5 Steps to Building Your Agile team

Agile is becoming the preferred project management approach in many of today’s fast-paced industries. At the heart of any Agile project lies an Agile team. The core of an Agile team is having an Agile mindset which focuses on accountability, collaboration, and self-organization. In this article, we will explore how to build an effective team to deliver value to your organization.

We will outline how to identify if Agile is the right fit for your organization; how to go about implementing Agile and the common pitfalls to look out for.

Establishing the firm’s need for Agile

Organizations today face numerous challenges in implementing new projects. Projects are failing more than ever thus costing firms millions of dollars annually. These challenges manifest themselves in various ways. Below are only a few examples of the challenges and problems organizations face when initiating new projects.

  • Poor requirements
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Poor stakeholder communication
  • Lack of quality assurance
  • Changing priorities mid-project

If your firm faces one or more of those issues, then it’s time to look into an Agile Transformation.

Steps to get started:

  1. Get Management Support
  2. Formalize the team
  3. Establish an Agile Mindset
  4. Implement Agile
  5. Avoid the pitfalls
  1. Management Buy-in

Getting Management buy-in is key. This will help navigate a few of the pitfalls of them requiring the same level of predictability in reports and planning that is normally delivered during the waterfall approach. Agile focuses on a working solution over strict processes and documentation.

2. Formalizing the team

An Agile team is more cross-functional. Each individual comes to the team with a specific set of skills to drive the project. Key players within an Agile team, using the Scrum framework include the following:

  • Product Owner — represents the customers and also has the task of identifying the needs and priorities of the work for the team.
  • Scrum Master — the primary role is to serve the team by removing obstacles and managing the Agile framework.
  • Developer — The core team task in delivering the work for the customer.

3. Establish an Agile Mindset:

Agile is not seen as a process or method of executing projects. It is a set of 12 principles and values that can be found in the Agile Manifesto.

The core values are:

  • Communication — critical
  • Simplicity — minimum Viable Product
  • Courage — delivery in small increments
  • Feedback — team doing retrospectives
  • Respect — team open to knowledge sharing

Delivering like an Agile team requires focusing on the highest value first (Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule). Based on the Standish Group study, only 20% of features are key to solving the customer’s issue.

4. Implementing Agile

Training is essential for teams starting off in Agile. The aim of this training is to allow the team to:

  • Understand the rules of Agile
  • Provide a space to discuss any concerns
  • Practice

We are admittedly biased to the Scrum methodology of executing or practicing Agile. We highly recommend the following training established by the founders of Scrum. More information can be found on the following websites:

Training is best followed by practice using a project that is a low hanging fruit in your organization. Ideally, you want to provide a cross-functional team with a shared workspace that will enable collaboration in real-time. This will allow the team to convert knowledge into practice.

5. Avoid the pitfalls

Like all new strategies and processes, firms like to modify this strategy to fit the organization’s approach. When it comes to Agile the less we corrupt the approach, the better the results we will have. Here are a few pitfalls to look out for:

  • Sticking to traditional project habits, such as driving reports instead of focusing on a working product.
  • Project Manager micromanaging the team rather than supporting the team.
  • Renaming over retooling (using traditional meetings and items and simply renaming to make them seem more Agile)
  • Thinking that Agile is radical and ever-changing (there is still documentation and requirements gathering in Agile)