Having a great agile team is integral to the success of any project. At the base of it all are the individual team members who work work simultaneously to achieve a common task. A team is only as good as its members. Here are a couple characteristics of the perfect agile team member and how to foster a great environment for your team:
Talk It Out
Communication is one of the most important facets of how any team functions, whether they employ the Agile methodology or not. The best team members actively talk to each other on a daily basis, figuring out and working through problems face to face. If anyone can’t be reached, great team members employ video conferencing and instant messengers to reach out to anyone they need to get in contact with. The best way to facilitate good communication is to hold a stand up meeting. This is a brief meeting where all team members go over what they are working on for the day, what happened the day before, and any issues that may come up. The key is to keep it short and open up channels for surfacing potential problems.
Plan It Out
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”, but a great agile team member tries their best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Compared to other methodologies, Agile requires more planning. The major difference is the critical action is ongoing and occurs at varying levels of complexity. It is important that the team member be on top of all their tasks and always have iteration and release planning in mind. Depending on the project member, they need to commit to spending 20% of available work hours to planning in order to keep things running smoothly. When a team if functioning at its best, they are looking one or two iterations ahead. This way, they help each other keep the best laid plans on track.
A good agile team member isn’t afraid to speak up when encountering bad code. They trust that their team and organization are counting on them to make the right commitments and decisions, and are not afraid of speaking up on behalf of the group instead of blindly taking direction from management. This means they do their best to make accurate estimations and speak up with they miss it. At the base of it all is an environment where team members don’t fear blame for failure if they do miss their estimations. This results in a true estimation of what the team is capable of.
Great team members are great listeners. They make sure to listen to everyone around them: the team, the director, and most importantly, the customer. Sometimes, it can be all too easy to put your head down and pound out fun and amazing features, but the whole reason to be building the technology is to offer something a user would actually use. That is why great agile team members take the time to look at what users want, groom the backlog and planning accordingly, and check the feedback loop every iteration so the focus is stays on building something customers need.
The best agile team members are insatiably curious and always want to know more about perfecting their skill, learning new ones, and sharing the knowledge. Outside of getting their tasks done for the day, they love reading up on current industry news, look for workshops on boning up skills, and find ways to use their new skills to contribute to the project. The best way to feed this full throttle engagement is to encourage your team members to explore areas outside of his or her mastery. It’s also important to give them avenue to do it. There are endless online resources for learning and testing new skills, so it may be worth budgeting some time and money for team member development.
Get Things Done
Above all else, a great agile team member understands the long standing principles of getting things done. That means knowing what you need to commit to a project and doing whatever it takes to follow through. A good team member is empowered to take ownership of a project. They understand that their actions have consequences on a project and that kind of responsibility impacts commitment. One way to facilitate that is to invite them to participate in planning. Provide them with tools to understand what is most important instead of simply telling them what to do. Once they have participated in prioritizing requests, they become part of the process and help build an environment of trust integral to the success of any project.