How to Plan for Agile Teams

Agile WEB SMLMore and more organizations are relying on teams to get work completed and completed more quickly. The reliance on teams means that organizations are becoming less hierarchical and that management is moving further and further away from the old control and command management style, even in the C-Suite. Further, managers are developing more of a matrix set of skills. All of this means that organizations are becoming more agile.

Agility brings about more change and brings it more often. A more agile operation forces teams to throw out staid project management ideas. The team concentrates on the few items or tasks that are less likely to change by the time the team can work on them. This in turn, helps team members embrace change. One source suggests, “people should be happy to learn things that alter their direction, even late in the development process.” On the other hand, creating agile teams does involve some planning.

Size Matters: A good workable and agile team consists of four to six members. However, the function of the team could make a difference. Size should not be the first concern nor should the size increase to be inclusive. In doing so, you run the risk of duplicating skills and talent.

Team Makeup: Because your boss instructs you to put together a team to work on “Project X,” doesn’t mean that selecting team members is a mix of whatever is on hand like gathering up yesterday’s leftovers to make soup. While it may seem obvious that you want to have members on the team who possess the skills necessary for the task, there are other elements to consider. Team members must have the ability to prioritize and collaborate.  Why is this important? One of the main weaknesses of teams is the inability or difficulty in making decisions. The ability to prioritize greatly aids in the decision-making process and aids in goal-setting. Collaboration is important because this is a skill that high performing teams share. Therefore, lacking these two important elements may well lead to poor performing teams. Poor performing teams are not agile. You can read more about why team selection is critical here .

Agile Methodologies: There are several methodologies useful to creating agile teams. This article provides some limited information about the most popular. Understanding the team’s task and function is essential in selecting the best one for your organization. Lacking expertise in any of these methodologies or their accompanying software, links are being provided for your convenience.

Scrum: The scrum methodology is useful for innovative and creative teams where there is a high level of trust among team members. Read more about scrum here.

Kanban: This methodology has teams visualize the work flow with limited work in each cycle of development. Gain more understanding about Kanban here.

Lean Development: As its name implies, this method is all about eliminating waste.  This process has few rules and you can read more about Kanban here.

A you might imagine, each of these has it good points and challenges. In fact, some leaders view these methods as chaos creators. However, the origin of this agile movement is borne on the wings of software and demands for rapid change and its timely delivery of products and services to the customer.

Teams are experiencing a multitude of changes. Consider that teams have gone from structured workgroups to project teams and workgroups and now self-directed teams are becoming the norm. This brings change for management, vendors, and customers as well. Now the need for agile teams and planning for them, becomes clear as self-directed teams and agility won’t just happen. Moreover, according to a recent study, only 16% of team members rate their teams as excellent and a third rate their team as average or below. The ideas, processes and tools in this short paper can help plan and develop teams that are both self-directed and agile.

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Graphic Credit:

Sources: (2018) The State of Teams in 2018.
Rigby, D.K., Sutherland, J. & Takeuchi, H. (2016, May). Embracing Agile. Harvard Business Review

High Performing Teams, Agile Teams, Team Development