The foundation of Agile is to form teams, build backlogs and produce a working, tested increment of product. These are The 3 Things necessary for Agile to succeed. When a company wants to adopt Agile, an important first step is defining a strategy of what the teams will look like. Without this clear direction, you’ll put new practices like Scrum or SAFe into the old teams; they try to go through the motions and most likely fail to implement Agile.
In most organizations, teams are siloed with a manager at the top, and the people within the team consist of one job type. This means that teams are working on pieces of a project independently and then expected to put them together for a finished product. A common issue with this structure is if a defect or issue is found after a team has passed on their part, they must pause their next project to fix the problem. This causes a block in the flow of work and can stall development. It’s also hard to know how things will work together if developed separately.
This hierarchy might require manager approval before work is actioned, and the manager might dictate how the team completes the work. This can create a frustrating work environment if the people are constantly being told what to do with no authority to make decisions independently or waiting for approval before moving on to the next task. This can waste time, materials, and money. It creates a culture where employees don’t get to collaborate or have a say in how their job is performed.
On the other hand, Agile creates an environment of collaboration. Teams are made up of different job types that work together to create a finished product, and team members use their expertise to make decisions. It influences a culture that values the people and the work being done.
What’s an Agile Team?
In the Agile world, the teams have a specific construct:
An Agile team is a cross-functional team of 6-8 people formed around a specific business problem, product, feature set, component, or service who have the autonomy to decide how that business problem gets solved. An Agile team can pull requirements from their backlog, self-organize around the work, and sustainably deliver against their commitments to the organization.
Small teams are critical because the more people there are, the more communication can begin to break down. The teams need to be encapsulated, meaning each team has the essential people required to deliver the finished work or product. The teams might not be responsible for strategic alignment or all the necessary inputs, but once they have clarity on the business problem they’re trying to solve, they have the agency to do that.
Every Transformation must have a strategy for forming teams and what to form them around. Without the ability to create these types of teams, deliver against the backlog, and produce increments of working tested product, Agile will fail.
Benefits of Forming Teams This Way
Agile teams become the unit of throughput in the organization. They allow us to establish stable velocity delivering against the requirements in the backlog. Stable velocity creates predictability, which will enable us to determine how much work can be completed within a set increment of time, such as a 2-week sprint. This predictability increases efficiency, minimizes costs, and allows for better planning of upcoming work. It also allows us to measure progress when we accurately define the team’s scope.
This strategy organizes teams to minimize dependencies, like sharing people between teams because we don’t have enough staff or multiple teams to deliver the product. If dependencies exist, they must be orchestrated to keep work moving. Dependencies kill Agility and must be dealt with as part of the plan.
Everything around our Transformation model is about creating team-based units of throughput. When we can anticipate the scope of the team and the time needed to complete the work, we can make necessary tradeoffs as we progress through the backlog. Once we are on this schedule of delivering work regularly, we can increase our product’s quality, responsiveness, and innovation.
With the teams formed in this way, we are set up for success on the path to sustainable Business Agility.
To learn more about Teams – check out this video: Forming Agile Teams With Value In Mind