5 Things You Need To Know About Running An Agile Development Team

An agile development team differs greatly from the traditional teams following the waterfall model. Unlike the latter, agile teams collaborate between themselves and develop solutions. The scheduling is not ‘top down’. Based on the capacity of their own teammates and the client’s requirement, an agile team develops its own schedule.

An agile team model is often known to increase the employees ‘productivity and such projects are often completed within their allotted time schedule and budget. Implementing such principles in a rigid corporate environment can be often tough, as there are no specified methods for such a principle.

It is more of a mindset rather than a step-by-step procedure. To bridge the organizational gap between agile teams and senior management, they are headed by scrum masters and dev managers. Dev managers acquire on a more ‘technical leader’ role. Their responsibilities include quality assurance, code reviews, estimation and even hiring. Scrum Masters focus more on aspects like team coordination, optimizing performance and may call in for the assistance of the dev manager, whenever technical difficulties arise.

There is a common misconception that to lead an agile team, the managers must be technically sound and knowledgeable. While a certain degree of knowledge and experience does help, in the end, an agile model is about efficient manpower management.

Let’s take a look at some of the tips for making your agile team run successfully.

Know your team and encourage communication

The key to success of an agile team is its coordination, which cannot be achieved without proper communication. Unlike a waterfall model, an agile team relies on the strengths and talent of its individual members. Therefore, know your team members, recognize each of their strengths and unique working methods, and try to build your working model such that it utilizes the talent of each of your members.

At the same time, encourage your team members to engage with each other, so that they can grow comfortable working with each other and be more comfortable to face complex situations. In fact, the Agile Manifesto clearly states that face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication. So managers must capitalize on this fact and ensure that teammates know each other, and share a comfortable working space.

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Be flexible and adapt easily

Waterfall model relies on predetermined objectives and milestones, with clearly laid out responsibilities. This eliminates room for changes and innovation. Encourage your team members to be flexible and try to experiment. Implore them to throw their ideas on the table and abolish the step-by-step method. Create an environment such that developers feel safe to wander out and be innovative. Also, be flexible with milestones and your path to mission objectives.

Lay out milestones, and allow them to flexible to leave room for change. This allows you to adapt quickly to changing project requirements and objectives. Do not try to waste your and your team’s energy on milestones which are months ahead. In fact, experts say that an agile dev team would not be able to lay the details of what exactly they will be doing next month, and only come up with features they aim to develop, such is the degree of their flexibility. This comes in handy for projects where clients keep changing their requirements and objectives frequently.

Participate less like a manager, and more like a contributor

Because an agile team does not function based on a prearranged set of objectives, a command-and-control approach will not work. Managers also need to change their mindset, while continuing their particular roles. Rather than simply organizing meetings and checking progress status, you need to dive deep into the project along with your teammates and work out what how to approach a situation. This is because they often face changing scenarios and have to make decisions, which they did not consider about earlier.

As a result, more coordination is required between you and your team members so that you can evaluate what are the repercussions of that particular action, and what implications this has on your strategy going forward. Of course, you will also have to function as a conventional manager and not allow your team members to be distracted from useless insights and information, which may be external. You need to sell your mission to them and not allow them to deviate from their objectives.

Utilize the ‘daily scrums’ efficiently

One of the most publicized aspects of agile management is the daily stand-up meetings, often called daily scrums. It is a short meeting scheduled at the start of the day where team members discuss how their actions the previous day contributed to the common mission of the team, what they will be doing for the present day and any problems they faced which they would like to be addressed. As managers and subordinates, who have adopted the agile management for the first time, it is noticed that they often tend to overdo it.

And this has been cited as one of the topmost reasons for the failure of an agile management team. Often such stand-up meetings develop into a problem-solving session, where most of the attendants are not even involved in that particular domain. Yes, it is valuable to have various inputs. That is the sole concept of agile model, but overdoing it is a big wastage of time. If you want to hold problem-solving sessions, gather one or two experts from that field and brainstorm with them.

Manage your consultants wisely

If your team involves third party consultants, you need to make sure they blend in the agile environment. Consultants are often used to the ‘top down’ project managers. You must make them feel as a part of your team so as to have the maximum contributions from their side. Allow them to be flexible and make them more comfortable handling feedback and criticisms.

True, Agile teams are able to handle changing project requirements, but such changes should not allow the project to run out of scope, time and budget. In this regard, train your consultants as well as team members that it is also sometimes necessary to say ‘No’ to clients if you perceive that the said proposal will have too many implications on your short-term as well as long-term objectives.

So, by following simple procedures as such, it is possible for managers to run an agile dev team. In the end, it comes to a more flexible mindset to survive in a turbulent environment rather than managing based on mere documentations.

Sources: ITworld, The Next Web, Scrum Alliance, Infoq.

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