All agile teams aren’t created equal. Some miss deadlines and focus purely on their own survival, while others achieve amazing things, are self-sufficient and continuously improving their processes and capabilities. What’s the difference between these teams? And how can you evolve your team to hit these targets?
We’ve defined the three stages of agile teams with practical tips on how you can get your team to the ultimate goal – being cross-functional, self-sufficient, innovative and proactively improving.
The first stage in becoming an agile team is survival mode. All teams, whether agile or not, start off here. They’re trying to get projects up and running, fix bugs and deliver some form of solution. Focused purely on ‘surviving’, getting work done and following new processes, there isn’t much time for innovation or proactivity.
Your team will learn from experience, however, with proper planning and structure, this learning process can be sped up.
Creating slack time is important to transition your team from survival mode to the learning stage. By freeing up small pockets of time for your team and giving them new skills (both technical and non-technical) to learn, your team will begin to transition. However, there is risk involved.
Allocating too much time for learning can reduce the speed of project delivery (at least in the short term).
If you have enough slack time, use it to improve your team.
Things can be frantic in this stage, and if you don’t have the time to begin learning, your team can get stuck in survival mode indefinitely. You may not have the budget or resources to hire additional team members to help free up time, so, how do you create this slack time?
Implement new processes to increase efficiency.
Transitioning from survival mode to the learning stage is the most difficult part of becoming a fully agile team, as you also need to be able to overcome resistance to change. You need buy in from the stakeholders in your business – if they’re not on board with your team learning and increasing efficiencies, then you will struggle to increase this slack time.
In the learning stage, teams are one step ahead of those in survival mode. Their teething problems are gone, and they have the time to learn and improve their work, processes and skillsets. Team leaders and project managers are now able to take the time to implement these improvements to their team.
Stakeholders need to be educated about why project delivery may be slower (due to time taken to learn), so your team’s performance won’t be judged by the same criteria as before.
During this stage, your team learns how to work with each other. It’s important to give them enough time to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. By applying DISC profiling tools (dominant, influencers, steady, compliant), you should be able to get a good mix of personalities to form a high performance team
Training your team doesn’t need to be expensive. Pairing juniors with senior team members is a great practical way for your team to up-skill whilst maintaining their productivity. External training can also be beneficial for some team members, in the form of seminars and workshops.
The learning stage involves more than just upskilling your team. To progress to self-sufficiency, you need generate motivation for the team to upskill themselves by establishing their career aspirations and the pathway for them to achieve these goals.
Upskill your team by:
Provide motivation to upskill:
Becoming a cross-functional team is one of the goals of a highly agile team. To be cross-functional, each team member needs to have some understanding about all areas their team works in. How can you become cross-functional?
As your team up-skills and works more fluidly with each other, your Team Leaders and Project Manager’s responsibilities will begin to decrease as the team transitions into self-sufficiency.
The final stage and ultimate goal for any agile team is to be in the self-organising and self-sufficient stage, allowing for rapid and flexible response to change. At this point, processes are clearly defined and followed. Adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continuous improvement become part of the day to day processes for a completely agile team. Team leaders are able to step back and observe the team and identify opportunities for improvement, rather than having a direct hand in the everyday running of projects.
Becoming a self-sufficient agile team takes time. Experience is what makes an agile teamwork. Your team members need to have been part of a team for a while, know how to communicate and interact with each other, and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This enables them to organise quickly and efficiently, and make proactive decisions. Self-sufficient teams can easily change their approach, and are open and flexible to this change if it makes their processes better, and delivers better outcomes.
Agile teams will have retrospective sessions to discuss what they’ve learnt, what went well and what didn’t. These meetings review outcomes and learnings from projects, how they can change their approach, improve and try again. This is essentially a form of trial and error, learning from experience to improve in each following project or sprint.
Team Leaders and Project Managers will have the least day to day involvement in this stage, as they will only be called upon for critical guidance and higher-level decisions rather than the day to day processes or fire fighting.
Overall, a highly agile team will be able to reliably deliver projects quicker and with less errors than those in the previous two stages. Their proactivity and ability to learn and innovate enables them to make an essential, and extremely valuable contribution to your organisation.
So, which stage is your team in?
We help organisations get to agile maturity faster by utilising our experienced agile team members.