Agile teams were often depicted as cross-functional groups that only existed within the realm of software development. However, it's important to note that agile principles can be applied to many different areas of an organization. While there are limits to how large a team can be, the real challenge rests in deciding how big is too big -- and how can an organization effectively overcome this obstacle?
When a team is too large, it becomes difficult to maintain clarity of vision and short feedback loops. To set up an effective agile team, you should start with fewer members, avoid working on too many different things at once, promote communication through all levels of the team, and be aware of situations where communication breaks down over communication channels.
Here are some key agile practices to focus on when building teams:
Focus on desired results
An agile team should be made up of the best talent, working towards a goal that benefits the company and its customers. That's why you should start by determining your project's goals and how many hours it will take to make it happen.
A project can be anything from a new website to a new customer service application to building out an app. As you're figuring out what kind of team you need, here are some questions to ask:
- What is the goal?
- What is your desired outcome?
- How long will it take you to get there?
- Who is on your team?
- Is everyone in-house or do you need to bring in freelancers or contractors?
Figure these things out before you get started so you know how many hours this project will require. Agile teams work best when they have clearly defined goals and everyone knows exactly what their job is. Once you know where you're going, it's much easier to build a team that will get there quickly without wasting time or resources.
Talk to the team - Set expectations upfront
Agile teams are self-organized and even though you're the one choosing the team, you can't dictate exactly how they go about their work. Once you've got the right people on the team, your job is to create a foundation for success.
[QuoteText]“Creating a new team is probably the most important thing managers can do, so make sure you get it right. When we created our initial agile teams, I was personally involved with structuring them and selecting team members. It might sound crazy to get so involved in this level of detail, but it is critical that the early teams become true beacons for success.”
– Scott Richardson, chief data officer at Fannie Mae[/QuoteText]
The first order of business is to set ground rules that will lay a solid foundation for everyone working on this project. This is where you'll begin setting expectations of what's required from everyone involved.
This means setting the tone from your first interaction with your team members. You'll want to make sure they know that change is constant, and their plan will inevitably change as the project progresses. In addition, everyone should understand that they must work as a team – there can be no lone wolves working on their own tasks. They need to be flexible and adaptable to changes that inevitably arise as a project continues – it's just not possible to map out every step of a project in advance.
Agile teams also need to be comfortable with reporting progress periodically and explaining why something was done or how it was done. Finally, make sure everyone understands that they shouldn't take failure personally – agile teams don't succeed because one person succeeds.
Curiosity towards failure
Simply put, people learn more from failure than success. So, if you make sure that your employees feel safe to try new things and to fail (safely) in order to learn, they'll not only get better at their jobs, but they'll be happier in their jobs, too.
A great leader will be able to use failure as a teachable moment; the important thing is not to let it tear down the team or the project.
Fail early and often. By working in short sprints with small checkpoints along the way, you can create structures that allow for quick course corrections when a failure arises. This allows you to fail early and often in order to succeed sooner.
Track progress over time
Building agile teams is not that easy to do. You need to keep the team members motivated and working in sync with each other. Set goals and targets for your employees. The goals will not only help the team members to achieve the targets but also help to grow their morale.
You can keep your team engaged in work by building an effective continuous performance management system. This will help you to track the performance of employees from time to time and not once a year. This process keeps the teams engaged and also motivated. The employees will never get disengaged and lose track of work and goals. They will be ready to battle any environment and no matter how uncertain.
Apart from this, the work of agile teams can be facilitated by scheduling regular meetings and workshops. These workout sessions enable the members to understand the roles and responsibilities better, which helps them to contribute more effectively towards achieving the business goals.