How to Recognize an Agile Team?

Last month, I attended the Agile Open Space conference as part of the AMI team. We decided that each of us would moderate a topic during the event that we are interested in. I am always excited to observe how different people can think differently about the same thought, sentence, story...and that was my goal, to see how people from different business areas perceive the meaning of agile. I chose the topic “How to recognize an agile team?” and want to share with you a list of the key characteristics of an agile team that came out of that session.

To find an exact definition what agile really means is a challenge, so the discussion on this topic was extensive. For simplicity, let’s imagine that you are shadowing a team for a week or more and your task is to determine if it is an agile team or not. What should you focus on? How you will be able to find out? We discussed this topic for approximately 25 minutes and in that time, we put together these 5 key agile team behaviors:

  1. Ability to respond to changes effectively
  2. Continuous improvement
  3. Proactivity, high motivation
  4. Self-organization
  5. Transparency

Let’s talk a little bit more about each point. Nowadays, we are in dynamic environments and frequent market changes are considered normal and expected. As companies need to follow their own markets’ trends in order to stay alive, they are trying to become dynamic, too. Agile teams are very effective in responding to change; members are always prepared for some surprise can that come tomorrow. But in addition, agile teams are very well prepared. They define an approach for how to handle changes and feel good when something different is going to be implemented.

As members of agile teams adjust processes, technologies and approaches on a regular basis based on the changes to their environment, they can’t fall asleep and be satisfied with how they do things for too long. Members constantly need to identify new changes and pain points and find a way to handle them. It makes a team willing to continuously improve. At the end of every iteration, there should be a retrospective in which the team can talk about both the good and bad things they faced during the last iteration. Based on that, members can create action plans to help them improve processes or other things.

Members then manage these actions with smiles on their faces. They are proactive and highly motivated by nature. Each member wants to do their best; otherwise the team would suffer, and they know it. They recognize that an agile team is one living organism, and all parts are very important to survival. They do not ignore any kind of sickness in the body of their team, because once it spreads, it will be too late. Thanks to this conviction, members are self-organized, and they do things as well as is possible.

The last, but not least, characteristic is transparency. Agile teams find transparency a very important key to achieve all their goals. The team is transparent to all stakeholders such as customers, other departments within a company, sponsors, etc. Also, members of an agile team communicate well with each other. They share all important information and have daily meetings in which they talk about any new updates or problems that arose. They want to share ideas, opinions and questions that can help improve the team, the work or, well, teamwork.

So, how about your team? Is it agile or just another wannabe? 😊

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