Any project, whether Agile or otherwise, can only be as good as the people working on it. The success of Agile as a discipline relies on team collaboration, interdependence, and trust to produce high levels of quality and productivity.
Additionally, as team dynamics dictate the success of a project, likewise the qualities of each individual team member shape the success of the team dynamics. Ultimately a project is only as successful as the competence and commitment of its team members.
When forming an Agile team it's vital to select individuals who have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities that align with Agile principles and help the team to achieve the best results.
Attributes to look for:
The first and foremost requirement of team members is practical knowledge of how to perform an Agile project. Each individual member should ideally have a number of different experiences successfully utilizing best practices, partaking in different roles, and habitually using Agile methodology.
While qualifications, certifications, and course-based training may look good on paper, it takes time, practice, and a continuous commitment to self-development to establish real skills and aptitude.
Team members lacking in experience may still contribute to an Agile team if they are paired with more experienced team members to receive the mentoring and coaching necessary for contributing positively to an Agile project. Agile encourages this with well-proven techniques such as pair programming and collaborative working sessions during each sprint cycle.
While each team member should share a practical knowledge of Agile techniques, the most successful teams have members with other diverse and multi-disciplinary skill sets. These diverse team members should communicate effectively with others based on a shared understanding of need, and also respect the importance of different roles and experience in contributing to team success.
Some examples of useful "hard" or technical skills include design, coding, testing, and architecture. Useful "soft" skills include communication, collaboration, and leadership. A combination of both hard and soft skills are necessary for a successful Agile project.
Agile projects require high levels of collaboration and require all team members to understand their individual roles and commitments. In addition to knowledge and skills, there are certain abilities and attributes that all effective team members should share.
Additional attributes of good Agile team members include:
- Organization, self-discipline, and commitment to the project
- Understanding of "big picture" project goals or functionality
- Willingness to speak up when problems arise
- Humility and willingness to ask for help
- Flexibility and adaptability in the approach and solution
- Desire to continue self-education
- Effective communication, teamwork, and attention to detail
- Ability to take constructive feedback and adjust behavior accordingly
- Willingness to share lessons learned from past experience to fellow team members
Attributes to avoid:
- “Lone wolves” who don’t like working in a team environment
- Prioritization of own work over that of the team
- Poor work management skills and the need for micromanagement
- Unwillingness to help others
- Poor communication skills
- Dislike of receiving feedback or criticism of their work
- Belief that their way is the only way to do something
- Preference for following a previously learned approach over new or project-specific approaches
- Low senses of completion and commitment
Agile development requires both expertise and practice to be effective. The success of any project, especially an Agile project, ultimately depends on the competencies of individual team members. Knowledge of the Agile discipline, practical experience, multi-disciplinary skill sets, continuous effort, and commitment are some of many attributes to look for in potential Agile team members.