Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How to improve agility of an Agile Team

Often as an Agile Project Manager or an Agile Scrum Master, your very first challenge is to improve the agility of teams.  Before we try to go to the core topic, we will try to define what is Agility?

Wikipedia defines Agility as
"Agility or nimbleness is the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, and endurance"
From the definition, it is quite clear that Agility is a function of lot of factors such as Balance, Coordination, Speed, Reflexes, Strength and Endurance.

So in this article, I will try to post my thoughts on how to improve Agility of a Team in my own words of course and out of my experience.
1.  Change their mindset
Agile is a lot about mindset.  Once someone is into that mindset, obviously he/she will contribute the best to the team's cause and thereby it will increase the speed and also the agility of the team.
2.  Change your mindset
Acknowledge the fact that you need a mental conditioning as much as the team.  First of all, try to understand what Agile is all about and how it benefits the different stakeholders in the teams.  Try to understand that Agile is not a miracle game and it takes time, proper execution, support from every team member and support from team as a whole to reap its benefits.
3.  Improve collaboration
Agile is lot about team working together to complete challenging tasks rather than several team members working in silos.  Emphasize the fact that Agile is a team game.  So Improve the collaboration among the team members, ask them to pair up for some problems and encourage good collaborative team work and make collaboration a habit.

4.  Improve the engineering practices
Agile is lot about being nimble, which means that unless proper engineering practices are followed, it may not be very helpful to the team.  If all team members have the right mindset but lack the engineering practices, then that will be a bottleneck to agility.
5.  Focus on knowledge sharing
Knowledge shared is knowledge gained.  The problems with traditional teams was that everyone worked in silos and very few members shared their knowledge.  But the main focus of an Agile team is to share the knowledge it gained among its team members so that as a team, they will be in a better position to respond to uncertainties.  As they say, Knowledge is Power.  The more as a team they know, the better inputs they have to solve the problems at hand.
6.  Continuous learning
The more you learn, the more you know and the more you can share.  One of the strengths of good Agile teams is that they focus on continuous learning.  As teams continuously learn it enhances the knowledge and hence provides a competitive atmosphere for learning and knowledge sharing.
7.  Embrace changes and new ideas
Often the team knows what is going well and what isn't and what needs to be changed.  So give a thought to those ideas and you might see a whole lot of improvements in the Agility.  Embrace changes from the teams also.
8.  Strike the right balance between process and innovation
Processes are required to a point to define some standards and to mechanize certain parts of the life cycle.  But over reliance on processes will make the project boring and there will be no scope for innovation.  And focus too much on innovation, you tend to lost of the current goals.  So try to balance between process and innovation.  By that way, you will improve the agility without hurting the current goals and also the innovative ideas of teams.
9.  Give the team proper coaching
Unless the team understands the benefits of Agile for them, the customers and the project as a whole, it will be difficult to get a buy in from them.  So give them proper coaching on what is Agile all about and what are the areas of focus.  By understanding, they will try to realize what their roles should be to improve the agility.
10.  Take it slow, Embrace the power of small wins
There is no point in rushing.  As already put forward, Agile is not about miracles overnight.  It can be beneficial in the long term, but for that to happen, start small and keep on improving.  Try to identify areas that can be improved and do it one step at a time.  That is when the power of small wins come into picture and the team will get a natural way of progression.
11.  Remove impediments for the team
One of the biggest Agility killers is the impediments for the team.  Impediments can be in terms of technical challenges, unwanted distractions from the product roadmap, no clear vision of product goals, waste of time due to lack of effective engineering practices, lack of automation, lack of team work and collaboration, and so on.  Removing these impediments will reduce the friction so that the wheels of Agile can move smoothly.

Thanks for reading.  Hope this post was useful.  Do you have any other ideas on how to improve Agility of teams?  If so, please shoot out your comments.  As always comments and critiques are welcome.  If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends or circles.  You can stay updated with the latest blog post by simply submitting your email id to the right in the section "Get Updates by Email".

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About the Author

Rajaraman Raghuraman has nearly 8 years of experience in the Information Technology industry focusing on Product Development, R&D, Test Data Management and Automation Testing.  He has architected a TDM product from scratch and currently leads the TDM Product Development team in an IT MNC.  He is passionate about Agile Methodologies and is a huge fan of Product Development, Agile Development and Agile Testing.  He blogs at  AgileDevTest Blog.  He is also an author of a free Ebook "Programmer's Motivation for Beginners".  Connect with him on Google+