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How to Match Culture and Drive With the Technical Requirements for Your Agile Project

Building a successful, productive, and happy Agile team requires a lot more than making sure every necessary task can be proficiently completed by someone. There’s an entire human side to the team building and management process that can have a huge impact on overall success and sustainability. In many ways, the human side of things has a greater impact than the level of the team’s technical skill.

Why is personality and culture at least as important as technical skill?
Pulling together a random collection of warm bodies that look good on paper according to their resumes doesn’t automatically mean a project will be a success. After all, just because someone is experienced doesn’t mean they’re interested in doing the work, or that they’re good at it. It also doesn’t mean they’re willing and able to work productively with the other team members.

Chris Smith, a project manager at Red Gate, explained the concept this way:

“I’d rather have a new graduate engineer with a team-centric attitude and a drive to improve in my team, than an experienced developer with vast expertise in specific technical disciplines but who does not play well with others. I’ve occasionally had to make the call between experience and attitude when assembling teams in the past, and I have never regretted choosing someone with the right attitude.”

Of course, technical skill is important, so a balance must be struck. But when making staffing decisions or allocating talent to a new project, don’t overlook the effect of personality when blending that balanced team.

Are the team members the only factor you need to consider?
Creating a successful Agile team actually requires a lot of ongoing work beyond staffing the team itself.

Even the best, most balanced team of trained professionals can be tripped up or slowed down by poor management, unrealistic demands, and flawed communication with other teams or departments. That’s where the roles of Product Manager and Scrum Master become so vital to success.

A well trained and qualified Scrum Master will serve a unifying role within the team, helping keep project work focused and fluid, and helping team members efficiently move through sprints and project phases without losing their stride.

Similarly, an effective Product Manager serves as a liaison and buffer between the team and the rest of the organization. He or she will help team members understand and get behind company and project goals, while also ensuring that other managers, other teams and other departments are not unnecessarily hindering the team’s progress.

How “Agile” should team structure be?
While an Agile working environment is nimble by definition, it’s actually been proven time and again that the most effective Agile teams are fairly stable project to project.

In other words, once you have a balanced, successfully functioning team in place, it’s in the company’s best interest – and that of the team – to let them work together on any and all projects their mix of technical skills allows for. As the experience of working together grows, their productivity and morale will grow along with it. They’ll begin to function more cohesively as they collect more successful projects under their belt.

As additional technical skills are needed, the decision can be made on a project-by-project basis whether to bring in an outside skill set to temporarily assist the core team or to invest in training one or more core team members to develop that skill set.

How do you find and hire these people?
Building the perfectly balanced Agile team is definitely a challenge.

Darren Hale from InfoQ noted:

“Finding technically capable people that fit with an existing culture is tough. On one hand, having objective measures of a candidate helps to quickly filter a candidate pool. On the other hand, purely objective measurements don’t capture the “soft” skills that help someone function in a team environment.”

But it’s not only possible, it’s been done successfully hundreds of times over.

At cPrime, we place a high priority on helping our clients accomplish this vital task, because we know how important high-quality Agile teams are to overall company success and sustainability of the Agile methodologies at work in their projects.

That’s why we’ve developed comprehensive training and coaching services focused on transition management as well as full-scale Agile staffing services to help guide you to Agile team success. Review what we have to offer, then drop us a line so we can discuss your specific needs really soon.
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