Who Manages The Team in Agile?

Forming agile teams are one the most important fundamental step in driving the team structure.

The theory says Agile teams are small, stable, cross functional and self-organizing. These teams are structurally different than their waterfall counterparts. The waterfall teams most often are formed based on the organizational structure and hierarchy. The management often cascades work from top to bottom and also set the pace of urgency to increase the productivity in the team. Whereas in agile, the team sets its own pace, direction, schedule that fits into the larger organizational product roadmap.

The Team Sets Its Own Pace
The Team Sets Its Own Pace

Contrasting With Waterfall

In waterfall, Managers use command and control to drive teams towards the project goals. The manager look to the priorities that were set, track the progress and evaluate the performance of developers and testers in the project.

Agile teams are formed on the basic assumption that they have to start self-organizing from day one. While this assumption may not be true in practice, it is the goal for every agile team to become fully self-organized after some point of time.

Self-organizing teams:

  • Self-manage and self-direct themselves rather than waiting for instructions from their managers.
  • Follow a whole team approach to make decisions. The team makes commitment to the Product owner on how much they can work during a specific time period and tracks their own progress daily by looking at the burn-down chart.
  • Have a collective ownership over the deliverables they make at the end of the sprint. The team is expected to build product increments of high quality consistently at a sustainable pace which has highest business value.
  • Usually display a great degree of mutual trust and honesty.
Self Organized Teams Trust Each Other
Self Organized Teams Trust Each Other
Management must also trust the team to get the job done. There is no one needed to micromanage the team on a day-to-day basis. The managers can perform more light touch leadership and provide the right support and help the team in reaching their goals.

There should be constant and informal feedback cycles between different team members and management to understand each other improvement areas.

The Role of Facilitation

A facilitator like Scrum Master must help the team to deal with the dependencies and interfaces with the external agile teams and management. The Scrum Master is an influential leader who influences the team in a positive way rather than commanding the team.

Scope creep and feature creep may be prevented, if the team constantly collaborates with the product owner. The team and Product owner have to indulge in constant 2 way negotiation, which protects the development team from getting swamped with unrealistic workload and at the same time helps manage the expectations of end customers and senior management.

An Agile team may be given lot of autonomy on how they should work. The product owner defines the “what”, the team defines the “how.”  As long as the team finishes work by the deadline within certain constraints imposed, it is entirely up to the team to determine how it should work.

The Role of Management

An Agile Manager’s goal is to enable team to solve its own problems. An Agile Manager should become a team coach in helping the team to learn from their own failures, removing organizational impediments and giving frequent feedback. An Agile manager may also harness key important metrics coming from the team and product owner and reflect it back to the team to understand what improvements the team needs support in making.

All in all, an agile team must be nurtured to manage themselves and make decisions themselves for meeting the product development goals. Key leaders in an organization must offer outside support for the team’s success. Agile teams have produced some of the greatest software products on the earth and the team contribution may significantly impact the quality and user experience. It is one of the key responsibility of the management of the organization to understand the anti-agile patterns within the team and remove them to make them fully self-organizing.

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