How to create the best working environment in an Agile team

agile environment-min

While an Agile methodology has mostly been associated with tech companies and the development of software, especially when it comes to software development outsourcing, businesses in other industries are keen to transition to Agile too. The ‘People Over Processes’ approach, and several other significant principles outlined over the Agile Manifesto make it a system that is vastly desired amongst business people, tech-oriented and otherwise.

As Agile empowers its people to give priority to, and be responsive to adapt to the best of their ability, the standard in which work is now done at this day and age has massively changed in comparison to the last century – and for good reason. With this dynamic shift in working procedures, challenges both big and small are bound to meet those who are a part and parcel of it.

So how can an Agile working environment be improved, for both the product that is being built, and the team that is building it?

Communication is key

In any Agile-driven project, communication is, and always should be, at the top of everything you do. There are no rules, and what you feel requires attention, can be prioritised on immediately. The right kind of communication and collaboration is made possible when your team members are at their peak, and it’s imperative that they’re given the resources they need to function at their level best.

Keep them content with the basics

At this point, the importance of quality sprints, stand-ups and retrospectives couldn’t be emphasised on any more. Setting the pace for an open communication policy where any team member can vocalise on concerns they may be facing is ideal.

Encourage your colleagues to speak about any hindrances they may have by asking the right questions; reiterating these questions in due course of discussions is also acceptable, as long as it helps people speak up. The next step is to make sure that any shortcomings are promptly taken care of, before your team can get back to work and they can be expected to perform at peak level.

The right tools to supplement Agile

There are a variety of intelligent platforms out there that can minimise downtime and maximise productivity, while working Agile. Solutions range from simple (online project bulletins where multiple members can add notes to notify others) to complex project management software. As cloud-based SaaS solutions gain popularity among the mass market, it is easy and affordable as ever to improve communication and collaboration amongst teams.

So go ahead, experiment with the vast number of solutions out there and see what helps your team to make Agile collaboration more efficient and productive.

Bite-sized goals are achievable

Creating smaller goals doesn’t just make it easier to complete a task, but brings in a host of other benefits that will help your business objectives in the long run. What’s more, the 12 Agile principles also promote shorter tasks and timescales.

What are the advantages of creating, and accomplishing bite-sized goals?

  1. Simplifies the product backlog

As major tasks are now broken down into smaller ones, this makes the product backlog easier to digest for your team members. This in turn contributes to better transparency and communication between your colleagues – which is the true purpose of Agile project management.

  1. Working software can be delivered faster

As your team reaches smaller goals, it is convenient to deliver working parts of your product (even if it is just a prototype) to your product owner quite early on during the development process. This therefore gives everyone a first-hand experience of how the product will function well ahead in advance, which subsequently makes it easier to fine-tune things as well.

  1. Problems can be rectified during early stages of development

As working prototypes are delivered early on, it is also easy to identify, and fix any bugs in your product. This means that your team will not have to wait until the entire product is made and implemented, to troubleshoot any problems – a predicament that is unfortunately quite common if the Waterfall method is used.

Trying to rectify any issues after the entire product is developed can be highly tedious and time-consuming, as the problem area needs to first be identified – and all working parts subsequent to that may have to be modified to resolve the problem. The smaller, bite-sized goals pertaining to Agile development can thereby eliminate the likelihood of such a situation, saving your team time, money and headaches!

Provide more autonomy to product owners

As the ultimate advocate for the product that is being developed, the product owner on behalf of his/her organisation, is an essential team member in your operation. However, many product owners are instructed to authorise changes only if their supervisors or senior management review per se, and give approval.

This tends to defeat the entire purpose of Agile product development, as long lapses of time are created due to bureaucratic formalities. For this, product owners deserve the independence to authorise changes themselves, so that the entire team can focus on developing the product at hand as potently, and swiftly as possible.

Giving product owners the power to call the shots is beneficial to:

  1. Be proactive and respond to change as swiftly as possible

This is the foundation of Agile product development, without a doubt. By enabling product owners to be the ultimate decision makers for their product, eliminating the need to do review/approval formalities through senior management helps save so much time, energy, money and most importantly, contributes to the superior quality of the end product as a result.

  1. Spot problems early, and rectify them as soon as possible

Again, this is another facet of working Agile. Faster troubleshooting means faster turnaround times, which in turn will lead to developing the end product exactly as per the deadline, if not before time. This can also improve overall rates of satisfaction, both within the team and the client organisation.

In conclusion…

Creating an idealistic working environment in any Agile team is quite possible, once sufficient focus is made towards fundamental Agile principles – and these basics are supplemented with relevant tactics that can assist members in adhering to these principles. These include:

– Fostering an atmosphere of transparency, where team members can open up about concerns sans any hesitation,

– Providing team members with the resources they need, and helping them eradicate any hindrances they may face,

– Creating bite-sized goals which are easy to implement and achieve,

– Giving product owners the freedom and flexibility to be decision-makers for the product that’s undergoing development.