Team Week reprise: in praise of agile product teams

13th October 2017
Rod Nicolson

All week we’ve been tweeting about agile teams. You can find the tweets using the hashtag #TeamWeek.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post asking what made a good product manager. Having analysed the top five posts returned by Google, I pulled out characteristics and sorted them by the number of mentions. What interested me was that virtually no mention was made of the product manager’s team. This seemed unfair to me, after all, without a team, a product manager can achieve very little.

In my research I saw that ‘Leadership’ got lots of mentions, but I left it off my list. I reasoned that as all the other characteristics combined would make a good leader, listing it again was redundant.

The connection to leadership that I failed to make in 2015, however, was that the characteristics of a leader, are also those of the team. In a high performing, agile team everybody leads. Shared leadership is more than required, it is essential to success. In an effective, self-organising environment you need everyone to be able to take the lead.

Building a team with these attributes takes time. And, to quote our first Team Week post, you don’t really build teams:

    “You grow them. And in the right environment their growth is a natural phenomenon. As a team grows, you start to see cohesion. The people in the team bond and jell and the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. In self-organising teams it’s understood that it’s better to succeed together than to succeed because of some individuals and not others.”

Agile principles are not just a way of thinking about software delivery, they inform behavior. Our third post talked about setting agile norms to give a team a framework for agile behavior. A norm that a recent EW team had on their working agreement was “Don’t step over the poo.” Essentially, when you see that something’s broken, don’t ignore it, fix it. We all own the quality of the product, so at the absolute minimum, card it up and put it on the board.

The last of our Team Week tweets covered the single most important attribute of an agile team: its potential to continually improve via regular retrospectives. Yesterday’s post described how one of EW’s teams were able to process a difficult iteration, and make their retrospectives even more effective.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the posts we shared this week. Small, high performing, agile teams are the bedrock of Energized Work’s success, and we are privileged and very proud to work with some of the most talented agile architects, developers, designers, testers, BAs, and product people in the UK.

Energized Work @ Crew Day 5

Let us know in the comments if you’d like to hear our thoughts on other aspects of agile teams, digital products, or strategic innovation. We’d love to hear from you.

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