Building Agile Teams for a More Productive Workplace

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Projects are messy. Ask any seasoned project manager tethered to a waterfall approach. Murky expectations lead to scope creep. Budget limitations screw up timelines. And team members are tied to rigid expectations. In reality, timelines, budgets, and expectations shift. Life doesn’t adhere to rigidity, so why would your project? 

It’s no surprise that organizations have pivoted towards an agile approach to teams. 91% of organizations want to adopt the agile philosophy in some capacity. Increased flexibility and simplicity are attractive reasons to embrace the agile philosophy. If agile is so successful for projects, it only makes sense to structure your teams in the same way.

 

agile teams

 

Ready to embrace the agile philosophy in your organization? Create an agile workplace by understanding its structure, benefits, implementation, and future. 

 

What is Agile?

While the buzzword is thrown around frequently in business dialogue, it’s important to understand what agile is. Originally coined for software development, the agile approach was designed to maintain flexibility. Agile is the antithesis of waterfall’s rigid and sometimes monotonous rigidity to its steps. 

Instead, agile works in short sprints for about two weeks at a time. Team members work diligently to get particular defined tasks done in a sprint. After the sprint is over, they deliver what they accomplished as a team and receive feedback. The agile approach is open to changes and willing to pivot based on business needs.

 

agile team working

 

Intuitive and responsive to change, it’s no wonder the agile method is the preferred project method by many professionals. Typically, we speak about agile in terms of a product or project. But this philosophy can do wonders in your day-to-day team structure. So how would one go about applying this framework to an agile team?

An agile team is an iterative approach to the future of work. Instead of thinking of your organization as a well-oiled machine, an agile team is like a living, breathing organism. Agile teams are cross-functional and self-organizing. 

In other words, team members contain a mixture of all types of skill sets and team members govern themselves. Your organization’s interpretation of “cross-functional” and “self-organizing” will vary by your desired agile team structure. 

 

agile team lead

 

 How do I Structure An Agile Team? 

Not too long ago, agile teams were limited to software. But IT, operations, and marketing teams are continuously embracing agile teams. Your agile philosophy looks different depending on your marketing team versus your software development team. But the first rule of creating an agile team is that you should throw out the rule book. True agile teams are continuously self-improving and evolving to your business needs. This basic framework can get you started.

 

agile structure



Consider Your Business Capabilities

You know your business best. It’s essential to understand what your business limitations are. Understand what it is your team needs to accomplish. It may be a new product or process. Align that with what your business is capable of when considering budget and staffing.

 

  • Map out Technical Capabilities

In the same way that you need to determine if your business is capable for your team, you’ll need to make sure of the same for technical capabilities. You may need a new type of software or hardware to accomplish your new goals as a team. Map this out as well.

 

  • Create Organizational Structure

Once you have business requirements and technical capabilities mapped out, you’ll need to determine your employees’ skill sets. If business capabilities allow for it, do you have the staffing available for your new agile team? You may want to hire more subject-matter experts, depending on the team you need to create.

 

Congrats! You’ve already established the basics of your agile team. From there, you may narrow it down by using a few typical structures:

👉 Scrum – The scrum agile method is frequently used for projects, and it’s no wonder why. Product quality increases by 250% on average with scrum projects. Scrum could also work well as a team structure. 

Scrum relies on defined roles. Most typically, this would at least include a project owner and scrum master.  The product owner has a strong understanding of business needs and communicates them to the team. Meanwhile, the scrum master ensures the best agile practices are being followed by the entire team and keeps everyone productive. The rest of the team structure depends on your industry. You might have developers or subject-matter experts as well. These individuals are highly skilled and work under the direction of the scrum master.

 

scrum process

 

👉 Generalist Agile TeamTeam members hold general skill sets and work as “jack of all trades.” They can easily switch tasks as needed. This structure tends to work well on sales teams.

👉 Specialist Agile Team – Specialists work in their own specialized areas. They provide deep insight into a particular aspect of their team. Niche specialties allow teams to have a rich understanding of a task. This structure works well with digital marketing teams.

👉 Mixed Agile Teams – In the spirit of agile, sometimes flexibility is needed. Hybrid or mixed agile teams mix generalist and specialist work together. Specialists still work on niche tasks, while generalists pull it all together. This structure is versatile across industries and allows for a greater degree of ownership. 

 

agile team

 

The Benefits of an Agile Team

The popularity of agile teams reinforces how good they do for your organization. Consider these major benefits of implementing agile teams:

 

The Benefits of an Agile Team

 

  • Improved Productivity

Traditional team structures may have predefined expectations that actually bog employees down. Constant meetings, meticulous documentation, and persistent planning sound good on paper, but it stifles creativity. Agile does away with all of this with short sprints. Research shows that agile makes team members 25% more productive. Without traditional distractions, team members can buckle down and get the sprint done. 

 

  • Better Communication

Completing a short sprint is no simple task. But it requires everyone to be on board. Working in a cross-functional team demands constant communication between team members to get the job done. Not only that, short sprints allow team members to regroup. Stakeholders receive transparency on what the team has accomplished, so they can also provide insight with clarity.

 

  • Increased Performance

Always remember, true commitment to agile is a philosophical shift. Not an organizational one. When companies empower employees to be free-thinkers, adaptable, and intuitive, your entire company performs better. It’s no wonder companies with a strong agile culture see an increase of 237% in their commercial performance.

 

What is the Future of Agile?

Agile has a bright future in organizations, as more business sectors expect to implement it in 2022 and beyond. When it comes to the agile approach, your team is never quite complete. To truly be agile, your organization needs to commit to the agile philosophy. Not just the ideas. Commit to open communication with your team to discover what’s working and needs tweaking.

 

agile team

 

You’ll also need to hire talent to help cultivate strategic growth in your agile journey. As your organization develops an agile process, you may find you require more specialized subject-matter experts. Consider adding on-demand professionals to your team with Oomple. The Oomple platform connects top employers to skilled professionals experienced in the agile approach. Ready to get started? Book a meeting with one of our account managers today!