What’s Different about Agile Team Dynamics? - dummies

What’s Different about Agile Team Dynamics?

By Mark C. Layton

What makes a project team on an agile project unique? The core reason agile teams are different from traditional teams is their team dynamics. The Agile Manifesto sets the framework for how agile project team members work together: The very first item of value in the manifesto is individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

The following agile principles support valuing people on the project team and how they work together:

(4) Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

(5) Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

(8) Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

(11) The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

(12) At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

The agile principles apply to many different project management areas.

On agile projects, the development team contains the people who do the physical work of creating the product. The scrum team contains the development team, plus the product owner and the scrum master. The project team is the scrum team and your project stakeholder. Everyone on the scrum team has responsibilities related to self-management.

The table below shows some differences between team management on traditional projects and on agile projects.

Traditional versus Agile Team Dynamics
Team Management with Traditional Approaches Team Dynamics with Agile Approaches
Project teams rely on command and control — a top-down approach to project management, where the project manager is responsible for assigning tasks to team members and attempting to control what the team does. Agile teams are self-managing, self-organizing, and benefit from servant leadership. Instead of top-down management, a servant-leader coaches, removes obstacles, and prevents distractions to enable the team to thrive.
Companies evaluate individual employee performance. Agile organizations evaluate agile team performance. Agile teams, like any sports team, succeed or fail as a whole team. Whole-team performance encourages individual team members to increase the ways they can contribute to the team’s success.
Team members often find themselves working on more than one project at a time, switching their attention back and forth. Development teams are dedicated to one project at a time, and reap the benefits of focus.
Development team members have distinct roles, such as programmer or tester. Agile organizations focus on skills instead of titles. Development teams work crossfunctionally, doing different jobs within the team to ensure that they complete priority requirements quickly.
Development teams have no specific size limits. Development teams are intentionally limited in size. Ideally, development teams have no fewer than three and no more than nine people.
Team members are commonly referred to as resources, a shortened term for human resources. Team members are called people, talent, or simply team members. On an agile project, you probably will not hear the term resource used to refer to people.

Try to avoid the term resources when referring to people. Referring to people and equipment with the same term is the beginning of thinking of team members as interchangeable objects that can be swapped in and out. Resources are things, utilitarian and expendable. The people on your project team are human beings, with emotions, ideas, and priorities inside and outside the project.

People can learn and create and grow throughout the project. Respecting your fellow project team members by referring to them as people instead of resources is a subtle but powerful way to reinforce the fact that people are at the core of an agile mindset.