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Agile Team: What you need is the right people

Posted by Jai on July 25, 2009

Like many others, you may also have seen many successful and failed projects and how the team dynamics differ from one project to another. Imagine the teams with all star performers or all freshers or a mix of different breed of code monkeys. In the end the work is some how get done but how do we say that what is the good or right way to make a fare and working team dynamics. In Agile we say that the team should consist of right people. What defines the right people? How right people is different from experts or dumbs? We will try to cover and discuss about such similar questions here.

You can think of the waterfall model where the team dynamics may not play very insignificant role. People do their part of job and it is designed in a way that rest will fall in place and probably that is why they call it process over people.

But think of an Agile team, once you say the team is Agile you put it strongly that the idea is to put people over process. Now the different agile teams also differ from each other in many ways.Whenever you build an agile team a lot of questions come to your mind like:

  • how do we define that a team is agile?
  • what should we do to say that the team will be able to deliver following the agile practices?
  • should the new agile team also follow the similar practices which worked for the other team?
  • what mixture of technical experts and agile followers we should have in the new team?

But do we really have the answers of all the questions that will work for all the teams, probably not. Because that is why we talk say about empowering team to handle issues in your own ways and also say that different agile teams behave in different manner. So what makes the different teams behave in different manner. One of the thing to worth mention is the composition of the right people in the team.

Right People:

We have heard this term so many times that the agile team should have the right people. What do you mean by right people?

Right people doesn’t just mean the technical or agile practices experts.But right people is the people willing to make it happen. People who are ready to make the things happen and ready to find the solutions to the problems in the implementation of:

  • agile practices
  • technical problems
  • team problems
  • management problems
  • other impediments

or may be some other problems in executing the project successfully. Indirectly we may be saying that the team members more inclined to be a team player. But still the individualism can be put aside for the time being in case you are required to be a team player and you will get enough opportunities to prove yourself.

The things are a bit easier to handle in case of collocated team. But imagine the distributed teams. We are not talking about the outsourced teams but imagine the fully distributed scrum teams. The challenges are much more in case of such teams like:

  • timezone issues
  • cultural issues
  • language issues
  • and more similar challenges

we are not discussing all these deep in details but just brief that timezone will decrease the chances to interact with people on other side, cultural issues will cause people to step back to put their opinions forward, the language will make it more difficult to make it open to people on the other side and similarly many more issues you can think of.

The challenges are much more but the idea is that all you need is the people who are ready to discuss the challenges and take the corresponding actions to resolve those. Definitely one way can be to ignore the problem itself and keep working the way it goes.

You do not want to blame the process, distributed or off shoring  etc . stuff and in the end saying that things don’t work right with the such teams. You can have the team members who prefer to work alone and have not worked with people miles away with whom it is even hard to communicate. But as a team what you need on both the sides is the people who are ready to accept these challenges and ready to work together in collaborated environment to make it happen.

That is why we call it right people rather than the expert people in agile or technology to make it happen and work.

In respect to the questions put forward above,

  • The team is agile enough if it is ready to face the challenges and able to find the solutions on mutual concession.
  • The thing that makes more confident about the team are the challenges handled by the team as a team rather than as individuals. If the team is ready to commit something as a team then the team will try hard enough to make it happen rather than responsibility of an individual.
  • Not all the things work the same way for all the agile teams. You can’t say that the same things will work for the new agile team also like other successful team. Any agile team you call successful is time tested and has proven itself. Give enough time to the new team to prove itself. The management perspective to follow similar practices like other successful team is worth taking into account but not to follow it blindly.
  • It is really hard to answer the last question because the team composition is always a bit hard thing. You can not guarantee that all the experts put together gonna work better or all dumbs put together will never work. The only suggestion would be to put the right people together rather than just thinking of experts.

WARNING!!!

Agile Teams, Look for right people not only experts.

Conclusion:

Right people make it happen.

Feel free to share you experiences or if you think otherwise that it is lot of burden. Or may be that it is all hype and all you need is the experts who are gonna do better job.

2 Responses to “Agile Team: What you need is the right people”

  1. Process is not against People, the problem is rather that Managers don’t even know what a Process is. They think their role is just to make slogans. And there two many slogans in Agile Experts mouths too like there are in Waterfall.

    Go back to the true father of Lean Management who was Deming. He’s the American sent by General Mac Arthur who taught and promise to Japenese they would become first in Industrial Quality, why do people try to reinvent the wheel ?

    http://statistical-process-control.org/deming-14-points/

  2. […] some time ago, I read Jaibeer Malik’s excellent writeup on the right kind of people for staffing you agile project. I totally agree with his analysis that you need people that are […]

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