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How to Build a Kickass Agile Team?

Read About The Best Practices in Agile Team Building Across Tech, Marketing, Product, Sales, and Ops

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Agile methodology, a specific approach applied in project management, especially in the field of software development. It works by breaking down the entire project into smaller developmental cycles, typically referred as “sprints” - the time-boxed periods (usually 2 weeks whereas other agile methodologies like Kanban have no time constraints) forms the heart of scrum and the overall agile methodology. This sprint-based structure of agile methodology encourages iterative and incremental work processes that prioritise customer feedback. Thus, the sprints help you to ship high-quality software with fewer headaches and thereby, increases the speed and efficiency of your business to a greater extent.

How do you build an agile team?

The agile methodology is all about the “we than I” approach. It prefers communication and collaboration over silos. If you’re all set to start an agile team, make sure that everything needed for healthy cross-functional teams is at the place. It could be the applications for ensuring communication such as Slack, Telegram, Google Hangouts; for tracking project delivery like Trello, GitHub, Jira, Asana and arrangements like a regular sprint planning, stand-up meeting, sprint demo, retrospective and so forth. The integration of such tools and practices not only works for co-located teams but also works exceedingly well for the distributed team across boundaries.

Similar to “communication and collaboration”, some of the other approaches employed by agile methodology are as follows.

● Continual Planning

● Continuous Learning

● Improvement

● Early delivery

● Flexible responses to changes

It is crucial and one of the prime tasks to adapt all these approaches to lead your organisation in the path of agile methodology. Now that we have discussed all the important aspects which form the foundation of a successful agile team let’s move forward with the literal “building process”. So how do you build an agile team? Do you think that the mere knowledge of “what is agile methodology” and “what does it offer” help you to build an actual working agile team? Whatever your answer might be, you’ve got a few more things to look at.

Talking about the agile structure and building team, in 1965, a psychologist named Bruce Tuckman introduced the “5 stages of group development” - which is emphasised as an inevitable for a team to grow, plan work, face unplanned work, tackle obstacles, find solutions and deliver values. So what are the 5 stages of group development, let’s see them below.

1. Forming -

It is the first stage of team development. The created team has just been introduced, and everyone will be equally excited to look forward. It is where here you need to discuss members’ background and interests, project goals, timelines, ground roles and individual roles.

It is the phase where the team starts getting to know each other and therefore, you won’t be productive yet as it’s much more about your team members than work.

2. Storming -

It is when the initial excitement and engagement is likely to wear off. Before this stage, you wouldn’t have been aware of your team member’s flaws; you’d believe everything is perfect and smooth. Only when the reality and weight of the tasks start to hit, the personality clash and disagreement between each other occurs.

At the same time, you (especially, if you’re team leader) must understand such conflicts are very normal in every team. You must be focused to resolve any such arousing disputes instead of avoiding it.

3. Norming -

This is when you start to admire and appreciate your team members for what they do - talent and tech skills despite knowing their other flaws. You may still face disagreements with your team members, and in this way, it’s almost similar to storming stage, but the only difference is that you’ve already found a way to deal with such disagreements and conflicts.

From this stage, you (and your team) start becoming more productive as everyone contributes to the project as a cohesive unit.

4. Performing -

It is the most productive phase in the entire 5 stages; it is when the team is highly-motivated and confident enough to complete the project without or minimal supervision. Everyone is into it together and driving full-speed towards achieving the project goals and objectives.

It is the phase that every team aspires to reach yet only some of them will reach it. Those who fail to resolve conflicts and get away with disagreements are the ones who most likely will not reach this stage.

5. Adjourning -

Tuckman later added this adjourning phase in the year 1977. In this phase, the team which has so far worked together will be disbanded, and because of this reason, it is also known as “mourning phase”.

These are the five stages of development, organisation, and whenever a new change is likely to be added, then it reverts to its formation stage.

The triad team of agile:

Generally, every organization has been divided into three to five teams with the headcount of 5 to 7 members each. To avoid the miscommunication among the teams, an organisation must be comprehensively distributed with regard to their role and responsibilities. When it comes to an agile team, you have three core

teams - which covers all the key members involved (both directly and indirectly) in the software development life cycle (SDLC). They are:

Devs - The development team (shortly devs) are the ones who are responsible for building, developing and customising websites and applications. Generally, the team consists of a Product Manager, Designer, Developer and Quality Analyst/Engineer.

Ops - Stands for the Operation Team, the role of this team is to assist the developer’s team with regard to technical operations and support. Again, you’ll have a Product Manager, Operation Engineer and Support staff.

Marketing - It is the marketing team which is responsible for making the product reachable to the targeted audience. Since the marketing team deals

with promotion and advertising, you’ve got a Marketer along with a Product Manager and Designer.

Apart from the above-mentioned roles, you’d also have a Product Owner, Software Architect, Scrum Master (in Scrum), Agile Coach (in Kanban), Project Lead, Database Administrator, Testing Expert and so forth. Having discussed the roles and responsibilities, let’s see what makes the agile team unique and helps to deliver quality products.

1. Continuous monitoring

2. Shared skill sets

3. Learning from each other

4. Tackling heterogeneous work

5. Learning of new skills (that eventually prevents one from falling into the critical path)

The Sweet spots: Scrum & Kanban

Some organisations prefer the Scrum Methodology and some, the Kanban Board - both of them rooted in Agile Methodology. To talk about what is Scrum and Kanban in the first place, Scrum is an iterative and incremental work process that offers and encourages a highly prescriptive method to get things done. On the other hand, despite whatever method is being implemented, Kanban (as a board) is used to visualise and improve the work-flow - story (backlog), to do, in progress, testing, done.

To know more about the Scrum and Kanban methodology and its difference, check out our other blog post on How to set proper milestones to track project delivery?

Keeping up with the engineering practices:

One of the striking features of the agile methodology is that it is built on essential engineering practices as follows.

● Code reviews

● Task branching

● Continuous integration

● Continuous delivery/deployment

● Regular release cadences

Some resources to lean on:

It is significant to understand things the way it is - how it started, its history, further developments, the do’s and don'ts, lessons from the past, case studies and the list goes on. If you’re planning to build an agile team by implementing any one of the agile methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean Software Development, Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) and so forth, the following are some of the reliable resources you can look for.

Don’t have time to start from scratch and want to build a custom team? Here’s a one-stop solution for all your needs, contact Starkflow to get your dream-team on board within hours.

1. From Jeff Sutherland’s (the co-creator of Scrum) Scrum: A Revolutionary Approach to Building Teams, Beating Deadlines and Boosting Productivity 2. Geoff Watts’ Scrum Mastery: From Good to Great-Servant Leadership 3. Matt LeMay’s Agile for Everybody: Creating Fast, Flexible and Customer-First Organizations

4. Mike Cohn’s Agile Estimating and Planning

5. Paul Vii’s Agile Estimating and Planning Your Sprint with Scrum 6. Doing Agile Right - Transformation Without Chaos (from Harvard Business Review Press)

7. Mario E. Moreira’s The Agile Enterprise: Building and Running Agile Organizations

8. Roman Pichler’s Agile Product Management with Scrum 9. Jex Humble and David Farley’s Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation

10.Chandan Lal Patary’s The Agilists Guidebook: A Reference for Organizational Agile Transformation

11.Lyssa Adkins’ Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches and Project Managers in Transition.

12.Esther Derby and Diana Larsen’s Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great

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