I recently spent some time digging deep into the world of the Agile Manifesto and related methods for software development. This research included a look at agile patterns and anti-patterns. That is my focus in this article. There was an underlying theme that I kept coming across and do not see emphasized often enough. Spoiler alert, that theme is teamwork. There are many aspects of Agile that make it an effective way to approach software. However, the true power and ability to succeed comes from how it empowers the team.
The Team Defined
First, we need to be clear about how the team is defined in Agile. This is often the development team but can also include the scrum master and product owner. For our purposes in the article, we will focus on the development team. Many of these patterns make the entire team better. Nevertheless, I want to focus on the development team as they are the workhorses for our software project. These are the people that most impact success or failure when we build a solution.
Unleash The Team
It should be common sense that the biggest factor in any calculation is the one that becomes the largest focus. In sports, you hear about a player that “has to be stopped.” In politics and advertising, you hear about ket demographics. Businesses have flagship products and cornerstone customers. The odd thing is that we miss this concept when we consider teams. There may be an individual that is the most productive or effective on a team. However, the team is key, not just the individual. We have seen this played out in numerous contexts and multiple times over the years. Yes, a leader can make a sizable difference. On the other hand, most leaders are measured by how they motivate their team and increase productivity.
The best leaders remove obstacles for their team. They reduce “red tape,” streamline processes, and empower team members. There is another way to view this. The best leaders unleash their team members to be the best team they can be. That takes us back to a focus on the team, not the leader. In case this example seems a bit abstract, managers are leaders.
Professionals Are Professional
The essential cog in the whole Agile Manifesto is that a development team is built of professionals. The members were hired because someone saw them as bringing value to the organization. Why would we throw that out once we place them on a team? It would seem to be common sense to trust these professionals to know how to do their job best. They know what their experience and skills are as well as where they work best.
That leaves managers to listen to their staff and find ways to clear obstacles. It may seem trivial or lack glamour. On the other hand, it makes a statement that team members are valued as individuals. They are trusted to make the team the best it can be. Sure, there can be conflicts and a need for team members to learn how to work together. However, how often are we able to make other people like or trust each other? Managers are not miracle workers. Do not force employees into a hole. Let them define their role.
Agile Patterns Are Not Suited For Everyone
The second most important idea that needs to be understood in this pattern is that some teams are not suited to Agile. We need to have a team that has some experience, has self-awareness, and is driven to succeed. The team can develop these criteria as they go, but they need a starting point. A team full of similar or junior members will struggle. If there is not enough time for the members to branch out and differentiate themselves, Agile will not work. This concept goes back to that trust factor.
When the team is trusted to “get the job done,” let them do the work. When you question whether the team can succeed, then do not burden them with Agile. They have to be able to make decisions and have confidence in those. Members that have no experience will rarely be able to do this. Instead, they will suffer from stress and lack of direction. Agile will be the worst direction to take.
Agile patterns start and begin with the team. When you have a team that has the ability to over-achieve then turn them loose. Your trust and vote of confidence will be rewarded.