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Agile – Individualism Vs Teamwork

Posted by Jai on September 9, 2008

The success of an Agile project depends on getting the right people on board and working as a team. Now the question is how the individualism and team work go side by side in an agile team. How much both matters and what drives more towards the success of the project and which should be rated more in terms of performance of the team members. Lets have a look at the different perspectives, problems and how we can reach out to solve these.

As very well stated :

“There is more to building a team than buying new uniforms.”
– Bryce’s Law

Consider a team in an agile project where there are people of different experience, age, technical skills and motivations working together towards the success of the project. Lets see what all members have the different perspectives towards it, where the problems start and how the conflicts come into picture. The discrepancy starts when the motivation, expectation, recognition starts contradicting.

Scrum Master/Technical Arch:

Articulates the goals, give directions, set standards and processes with team and resolve team issues. Should work towards success, he has the responsibility to make it happen.


Freshers, usually over looked by the team, mostly dependent on other team members. And usually agree with what senior team members tell them to do or to follow. The problem starts when the senior not actively helping out the fresher developers and prefer to do their own job. Usually, the freshers stay quiet thinking of not to irritate/dishonor any senior developer or not to do anything against them because they are the people who will judge them. If senior people starts looking from individual perspective by just doing their job and not looking from team perspective as of thinking of enabling the team and empowering the freshers and help them to get up to the speed etc. do affect the team dynamics.


The real problem starts with the majority of these kind of people working together. How to make all of them work together? You can make process and expectations from all to work together. But how can you change the person’s own preference of individualism over team work and vice versa. How will it affect the dynamics of the team and over all the outcome of the goal. In other terms, if there are no conflicts with in the team, does it mean the things are going to its best or there are some real hidden issues or politics. Lets say all are capable of working as an individual because that is why you have got the right people on board. There are different kind of people working together here.

a) Capable and believe in team work: These are kind of people who really can do the job and believe to work as a team, taking other together and thinking of achieving the goal.

b) Not capable but believe in team work: These kind of people do the team work to over come or hide their in capability to do the task and actively shout for team work so that others help to do the job. Job should be get done whatever way.

c) Capable but don’t like to work in team: These are kind of people who are capable but don’t like to work as a team, who prefer to do the job assigned to them. They are hard to reach and would do others things of their own for the visibility beyond the team also.

d) Not capable and don’t work in team also: It means you don’t have the right people on board.

Assuming that we have right people on board, the question is:

Who are the right people among “a” and “c”?

How it affect the team dynamics?

How does it matters to the success of the project?

How does it matter to the whole team?


Won’t like to interfere if the things are going fine. Let the lead and the team handle these issues. And by the time the news reach them it is already too late, damage is already done.

Now, what the management can do to resolve such kind of conflicts. And in real terms does the management any how do reach up to these level of conflicts or personal preferences. The point for the management is that whether you did the job assigned to you and what else you did for the visibility beyond the job assigned. At the end if no one would care what the dynamics you had with the team then how to recognize the efforts put the other people in building up the right team.

In ideal cases “Recognize individual achievement but reward on a team basis as opposed to an individual basis.”.

To handle such things in better way the whole team should take it up to the team level first, by having frequent meetings or even one on one with scrum master for such things and talk about what can be improved to work as a team. And in terms of recognition, someone should always take into account the people you have worked with. You can definitely be a good developer but it doesn’t imply that you are a good team player. And until unless that recognition is given, it is hard to continue on that path because people’s personal preference start changing once the team dynamics changes in that respect.

These things decide the work culture you are part of and how you can live it to the true spirits. There are cases in business where you prefer individualism but certainly you can achieve much more as a team. Even at organization level, you should not encourage rugged individualism, in some way it may send the wrong signal to people.

There is no straight answer to this because your business depends on both. And there is no right or wrong answer for it, whatever works for the business. But definitely there should be good mix of both individuality and team work to make it success and the right emphasis on which works well.


One Response to “Agile – Individualism Vs Teamwork”

  1. Jai said

    For more discussion:

    Agile Development: Balancing Individualism and Teamwork


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