How to Choose Agile Management Team Members

Choosing the right people to work on an agile management team is important to an agile project's success, especially for your first agile project. Desirable characteristics for team members overlap a bit, but certain jobs require more narrowly defined qualities.

Choosing members of an agile development team

The self-managing development team is central to the success of every agile project. When choosing development team members, select people who are open to change, enjoy a challenge, like to be in the forefront of new development, and are willing to do what it takes to ensure success, including learning and using skills outside their current skill set. All members should be able to:

  • Be versatile and willing to work cross-functionally.

  • Plan a sprint and self-manage around that plan.

  • Understand the product requirements and provide effort estimates.

  • Provide technical advice to the product owner so that he or she can understand the complexity of the requirements and make appropriate decisions.

  • Respond to circumstances and adjust processes, standards, and tools to optimize performance.

Characteristics of a Good Agile Team Member
Responsibility A Good Agile Team Member . . .
Creates the product. Enjoys creating products.
Is skilled in at least one of the jobs necessary to create the product.
Is self-organizing and self-managing. Exudes initiative and independence.
Understands how to work through impediments to achieve goals.
Is cross-functional. Has curiosity.
Willingly contributes to areas outside his or her mastery.
Enjoys learning new skills.
Enthusiastically shares knowledge.
Is dedicated and collocated. Is part of an organization that understands the gains in efficiency and effectiveness associated with focused, collocated teams.

Choosing an agile scrum master

When determining the scrum master, select someone willing to be a servant-leader, who, at the same time. is strong enough to help thwart distractions and uphold agile processes in the face of organizational and individual resistance.

A good scrum master

  • Has enough organizational influence to remove outside distractions that prevent the project team from successfully using agile methods.

  • Is knowledgeable enough about agile project management to be able to help the project team uphold agile processes throughout a project.

  • Has the communication and facilitation skills to guide the development team in reaching consensus.

  • Is trusting enough to step back and allow the development team to organize and manage itself.

The scrum master on a company's first agile project may need to be more sensitive to potential development team distractions than on later projects.

Choosing an agile product owner

Product owners often come from the business side of an organization. Choose someone who can provide product expertise and commitment to the project. During a first agile project, the product owner may need to acclimate to working on the project daily with the development team. A good product owner should

  • Be an expert about customer requirements and business needs.

  • Have the decisiveness and business authority to prioritize and reprioritize product requirements.

  • Be organized enough to manage ongoing changes to the product backlog.

  • Be committed to working with the rest of the scrum team and to being available throughout a project.

  • Have the ability to obtain project funding and other resources.

Choosing an agile champion

When choosing an agile champion, look for someone who has authority in the organization — whose voice is respected and who has led change initiatives successfully in the past. A good agile champion should be able to

  • Make decisions about company processes.

  • Get the organization excited about what's possible with agile processes — be passionate.

  • Support the project team as it goes through the steps to establish agile processes.

  • Acquire the project team members necessary for success, both for the first project and in the long term.

  • Be an escalation point to remove unnecessary distractions and non-agile processes.

Qualities of a good agile mentor

An agile mentor, sometimes called an agile coach, is a big help to an organization's first agile project. Several organizations offer qualified agile coaches, including Platinum Edge. A good agile mentor is

  • An expert at agile processes, especially in the agile processes your organization chooses.

  • Familiar with projects of different sizes — large and small.

  • Able to provide useful advice and support without taking over a project.

  • Able to help guide the project team through its first sprint at the beginning of the project and available to answer questions as needed throughout the project.

  • Able to work with and relate to the development team members, the scrum master, and the product owner.

  • Someone from outside a department or organization. Internal agile mentors often come from a company's project management group or center of excellence.

  • If the agile mentor comes from inside the organization, he or she should be able to put aside political considerations when making suggestions and providing advice.

Qualities of good agile project stakeholders

On an agile management team, the stakeholders include every person who is affected by or who has input into an agile project. Good stakeholders have these qualities:

  • Are able to defer to the product owner for final product decisions.

  • Are willing and able to attend sprint reviews and provide product feedback.

  • Have an understanding of agile processes. Sending project stakeholders to the same training as the rest of the project team help them be more comfortable with new processes.

  • Are willing to receive project information in agile formats, such as product backlogs and sprint backlogs.

  • Are available to provide details from time to time when the product owner and development team have questions.

  • Are able to work collaboratively with the product owner and the rest of the project team.

The project stakeholders for a first agile project should be trustworthy, cooperative, active contributors to a project.

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