Agile team is a team that is solely responsible for an execution of one project. Instead of a classical silod marketing or product team, an agile team consists of people with different backgrounds, has a specific deadline, and a mission to accomplish. And they need to have all the different technical know-how and skills to do a project from start to finish.
This means that an agile team often has people with different tehcnical skills working together. There is not only a mix of developers and designers but an agile team can also have marketing or communication specialists.
For a manager, an agile team has many benefits. But it has its drawbacks as well. These drawbacks are easy to overcome when you know what to expect.
The Benefits of an Agile Team
When your team can focus on one project at a time, it is much easier to make sure everyone understands what the exact goal of the project is. This makes it easier to make sure everyone is in sync.
The main benefit of an agile team is that you have cross functioning employees working together. This alone increases communication across departments, and helps to solve potential problems faster. For example, if a growth mindset is there from the beginning, they may catch something important that others didn't notice. Or if you want a specific function in the product, the agile team may have a smarter way of going about it when you have developers, designers and other specialties working together.
Now, compare it to a project going through different teams. One team comes up with an idea, then designers design the UI, then engineers take it up to develop it and then it gets released and goes to the marketing team to promote it. Perhaps the marketing team realizes there is a better way for the product to function. So it goes back to development, who will need a new design and so on. An agile team will get you out of this vicious circle.
There are 3 main benefits to having an agile team.
1. Increased Focus
Working on a single project together helps increase focus and communication in a team. Employees will be motivated towards the same end goal and won’t be distracted by smaller projects.
2. Less Delays
With all the different backgrounds working together, the team can handle all issues by themselves. The team won’t have to wait for someone else or another team to help.
3. Increased Communication and Problem Solving
– Having clear, well-defined end result, a goal, means that it is easy for your employees to understand why they are doing their tasks. Having clear goals is a prerequisite to running any high-performing team. But with non-agile teams, it can be easy to get lost in why you are doing what you are doing when you have a bunch of small tasks connected to different projects..
The Challenges of an Agile Team
At the same time, when you put together a new agile team for a project, you have some difficulties you need to be aware of. All of these are, however, easy to overcome if you are ready for them.
It is Harder to Get the Team Working Together
When people with different backgrounds are working together for the first time, it is normal to have some communication issues. People have different expectations and different options on how and why things should be done. Think about the difference of how a sales person, who deals with potential clients and partners, sees the world and handles work compared to a developer who looks at code all day. Both of them are used to completely different work habits.
Different Work Expectations
In different teams, things are done differently. A marketing specialist and a developer are used to working in completely different settings. In an agile team, however, they need to work together. For team leaders, this means finding the best from all worlds and combining it in a way so that the working environment suits everyone.
Both of these problems are a question of internal communication and employee engagement.
As a leader, your task is to make sure everyone understands your shared goals and help them work together to accomplish them. For this you should use some measurable and simple method, like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in an Agile Team
OKR is a highly successful method made famous by John Doerr and used in many tech companies like Google and Amazon. They are especially useful for agile teams, where team alignment is essential for successfully reaching a goal.
With OKRs, you set inspirational Objectives (end goals) and tie each with a measurable Key Result. Each team would have 1-3 high level Objectives. Under each Objective there should be 3-5 measurable Key Results. Each Key Result can be measured on a score of 0-100% or 0 to 1.0.
OKRs are set quarterly, as this is the optimal period of time for teams to be able to accomplish goals while still being agile. Dividing your longer goals into three month chunks will make it easier to understand and achieve. And it helps to keep employees focused. After all, an annual goal always seems so far away that you can deal with it “later”.
Working Towards the Same Goal
A big part of OKRs is making sure everyone is aligned towards the same end goals. All OKRs are public inside a company, so that everyone understands how each person’s tasks move them towards the goals. This increases team work and helps to boost employee engagement and morale.
OKRs will help an agile team focus on the outcome they want to accomplish with the project they are working on. If different members of a team have different ideas of why they are doing something, people will quickly be pulled in different directions. OKRs help make sure your team is aligned to the same end goal.
Setting your Weekly Plans
Once a team has OKRs, it is easy to use weekly planning methods that align with team goals.
Weekly planning is vital for any team. The easiest method for that is the weekly status report system called PPP (Plans, Progress, Problems). With this system, each employee outlines the 3 to 5 most vital tasks each week. Once they are finished, they move it to Progress. If there are any issues, they add it to Problems.
If you are also using the OKR software like Weekdone, employees can link each of their plans to a specific Key Result. Showing how a weekly task contributes to the team’s overall goal can increase employee engagement and help make sure everyone on your team is contributing towards a Key Result.
That way, by the end of each week, managers can get a quick overview about everyone’s progress and plans for next week. These can easily be discussed in a weekly check-in meeting.
Running Weekly Check-ins in an Agile Team
For any goal setting methodology to work, the progress towards the goals must be measured regularly. With OKRs, it is important to have weekly check-ins on a team level.
Weekly check-in is a 15 minute meeting where you and your team reflect on the progress of Team OKRs and set new priorities for the upcoming week. This is usually done on a Friday to make sure by Monday, everybody knows what they’ll be working on the following week.
The purpose of these check-ins is to guarantee the OKRs are progressing. This is done by looking at accomplished Plans, the results of these Plans, and the lessons learned when moving forward. This turns Objectives and Key Results into a weekly flow and helps your agile team overcome the challenges mentioned in this article.
Agile Teams Are Your Own Group of Superheroes
Agile teams are used to combine the best qualities of people with different skill sets in order to maximize the potential of these people. Leading this sort of team isn’t hard. You can watch Avengers or any other movie featuring a team of superheroes to see that being a leader of a group like that requires some extra work. But if you come up with a system and manage to implement it, you will succeed.