How To Build High-Performance Agile Teams

・7 min read
How To Build High-Performance Agile Teams

A “team” in the Agile sense is a small group of people, who work together on a project, nearly all of them on a full-time basis. A team should possess all the skills necessary to get the job done and entails shared accountability.

However, imagine passionates who are highly motivated and engaged as a team, who contribute directly towards achieving your business goals by delivering exceptional digital products.

What makes them do so? What are the secrets of great teams?

Below you can find six key elements which I consider as valid and crucial for setting-up solid Agile teams. We always keep them in the back of our mind when building and leading our Agile teams at Selleo and we recommend them to consider while setting up your own team.

1. Build upon a solid foundation

Incorporating common values in Agile teams is crucial to create a culture of work that is collaborative in the first place. It forms a solid foundation that brings together all team members and fosters integration. Collaboration simply means to work together to accomplish a task. Agile methodologies stress the benefits of working with cross-functional teams rather than working in functional silos. It promotes frequent communication and cooperation between team members which helps to avoid any misunderstandings and to get things done faster.

From our experience, team bondings and its dynamics get better with time and people are more productive when they trust each other and enjoy working together. It also takes time to understand how individual team member’s skills complement the skills of another peer. At Selleo, we promote the way of self-organising and self-managing client-focused team, which is possible due to the flat and network structure of the company. Teams at Selleo are collocated in the office so they can easily integrate with each other not only through formal and scheduled meetings but also through small chitchats, informal discussions or common afterwork activities. Establishing a strong team is not about sending your team members to team building events and expecting greater results from the team. High-performing teams take some time to build so try to keep your teams together.

2. Establish strong engineering practices

Beyond keeping the team together, it's really important to build the sequence of the best engineering practices like code reviews, continuous integration and deployment, sharing the codebase between all the software developers and a single coding standard to which all the programmers adhere. At Selleo, we have implemented high-quality engineering practices, like automated tests, builds and deployments as well as daily practices in code review and quality assurance of software development in order to increase the confidence of the team and the quality of the service they deliver. A better quality of code and lack of technical debt are achieved by the regular, rigorous refactoring during software development. High-performing agile teams are aware that strong engineering fundamentals are crucial for delivering great digital products.

3. Ensure continuous mentoring

In order to support individual team member’s development, there is a huge need for creating an environment where the peers can learn from each other. Pair-programming sessions, TILs, code reviews, and feedback - these are some of the instruments we use at Selleo on a daily basis as encouragement to share the knowledge across the teams. Mentoring is not just an activity for a junior member to learn from seniors. Everyone from the team can learn from each other in order to unlock their power as a whole to tackle diverse and sophisticated work.

When the team members work well together and have good relationships they also use informal discussions as a common way of sharing knowledge. They are motivated to share experience across the team because they have a common goal - to deliver their work with the highest quality.

At Selleo. we love to reward people who never stop learning, never stop growing and never stop helping others to grow. We do our best to deliver to people everything they need to make them grow continuously, and we are aware that being helpful and sharing knowledge with the colleagues are the values which high-performing teams are equipped with. You can also help your teams by creating efficient and successful mechanisms for knowledge sharing across and beyond the team with management and various specialists.

4. Create a cross-functional team

High-performing Agile teams comprise individuals with a broad set of skills that are necessary to effectively accomplish the work from their backlog. Team members must be open and highly motivated and the team must have both the authority and the accountability to achieve the goals they have been given. Typical cross-functional team at Selleo can do a lot of different stuff because it includes software engineers who have expertise both on the back-end and/or front-end of the software product. It also may include e.g. designers, testers and user experience (UX) specialists, if those activities are necessary to get the work done as a team.\ The key aspect here is that the high-performance team should be able to deliver the results of their work by combining their respective skills and talents.

5. Communicate the big picture and goal

Team members work better when they know how their work is aligned with the overall goal and when it contributes to the bigger picture. It is not about picking up stories from the backlog without understanding what value it brings to the entire vision. This approach is not effective. It is important to invest time in communicating the bigger picture, the current priorities and goals to the team in order to increase engagement and ownership.

At Selleo we work according to the Scrum and Agile methodology and we always encourage the Product Owners to share their vision and goals to the Development Team at each stage of the project. We insist on communicating the vision early and often - this communication should start from the kickoff meeting and continue throughout the entire development cycle. Common goals are important not only because they develop creativity and innovation but because they bring people together and encourage them to communicate problems and results. There is such a notion of ‘feature teams’ in Agile, where a team owns a particular area of the software application, but with a better understanding of the overall goal, they feel responsible for the project as a whole.

6. Empower the team with decision-making

In order for the Agile team to work effectively, the team members should be empowered to make their own decisions. As mentioned before they need to be presented with the bigger picture in order to set up their own goals in alignment with the overall goal. The team needs to understand what work is to be done but they are given the freedom to find their own solutions and ways of working. At Selleo, Agile teams work according to the best practices and when they have a feeling of total ownership, which again is possible due to flat and network structure, it creates much better results. Freedom in decision-making for the Agile teams creates a culture of creativity and an environment which promotes challenging tasks constructively.

Closing thoughts

In essence, those six elements are crucial while setting-up the Agile teams, however it takes some time and effort to build a high-performing team with the strong fundamentals and broad set of skills.

We can observe our customers’ satisfaction growing from the cooperation with our Agile teams. We can ensure that, when the team is mature, has strong practices both on collaboration and engineering, and in addition is established with the freedom of decision-making and ownership it delivers much better value to customer experience and improves overall service and product quality.

After all, what makes a good team great is the ability to focus on the common goal which brings all the team members together and increases their engagement, interactions and communication.

It is also essential to instil positivity in team members and encourage them to share their knowledge and thoughts across the team. These are the fuels of productivity which help the team grow continuously.

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