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Developing and Leading Agile Teams by Rosalind Brewer

Rosalind Brewer discusses how agile team members contribute to project management by maintaining a consistent workflow in product development to meet the needs of customers. Discover Rosalind's advice for leading agile teams.


What Is an Agile Team?

An agile team is a group of people who work together to achieve a common goal. Agile processes may include the creation of a new product or solution to meet the needs of customers. Team sizes vary, but agile methodologies typically require at least three and no more than ten people. To prioritize team performance, the majority of team members are full-time employees whose sole responsibility is the product's continuous improvement. Part-time contract workers may make up two or three members of larger teams.

Agile frameworks rely on people with diverse skill sets to collaborate as a cohesive development team. This frequently entails bringing together cross-functional teams to collaborate and brainstorm. Remote teams that communicate frequently have become more common. Iteration and bringing all groups into an agile mindset of testing, creativity, and collaboration are central to agile transformation.


What Is the Agile Manifesto?

In 2001, seventeen software developers and programmers gathered at the Snowbird resort in Utah to draft the Agile Software Development Manifesto. The agile manifesto proposed a new, simplified roadmap for developing software that prioritized efficiency, versatility, and customer feedback, consisting of four core values and twelve principles.

Agile practices hold great promise for stakeholders today because they help to automate product development, promote creativity, and foster a team-oriented spirit. High-performing agile teams succeed or fail as a group; the pressure is not on one person but on the entire group.


An Example of an Agile Team at Work

Roz Brewer oversaw agile teams working on multiple projects to meet the needs of customers as the COO of Starbucks Coffee Company. Consider this example of testers, contributors, and baristas collaborating to figure out how to make drinks less sugary in response to customer requests.

"We were in a quandary about what we should do about the amount of sugar in our drinks," Roz says. Changing the drink recipes may compromise the flavor profile, customer trust, and brand recognition, but doing so as part of a forward-thinking initiative may make them healthier.

The data: "You'd naturally approach your product team and say, 'Hey, reduce sugar by 3%.'" "You'd give them a number and a deadline," Roz explains. "However, this was about thinking more clearly about the impact on the customer. We started with the data and analytics team to help us understand how serious this is."

The solve: These insights sparked communication with another team. "Then, once we learn more from that team," Roz continues, "we bring them together with the product development team to discuss what that would mean in terms of adjusting the flavor profile." Following that, the team gathered the operators to discuss how the changes might affect the equipment and the sourcing of goods and materials. "It was really interesting for us to put together an agile team... to solve this problem because it had the potential to impact the brand and what we stood for."


Tips for Developing an Agile Team - Rosalind Brewer

Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer supports product management and decision-making with an agile team structure. Consider the following advice for agile project managers:

1. Assign the team the task of resolving the most significant problem. Agile teams investigate complex issues in order to devise solutions. "You never give an agile team a mundane problem that can be solved through standard business practices," Roz says. She advises these teams to "take big swings and take that stance that says, 'We're looking around the corner, and then the next corner, and then the next corner."

2. Encourage team spirit. Agile structures necessitate collaboration. "You're being asked to listen to a colleague in a different function, so you have to be willing to collaborate," Roz says. "When those teams are disbanded, they feel a new sense of connection to people they never would've connected with in the past," says the retrospective, "so it's exciting to see what can come out of agile teams."

3. Find team members with different perspectives. Diverse ways of thinking are beneficial to agile teams. "I'm looking for lane convergence, but I'm not asking you to give up your lane," Roz explains. "What really works is when you have someone who is open-minded enough to accept the views and beliefs of others and is willing to collaborate with them."

4. Hold your teams accountable. To be successful, an agile team must stay on track. "There are times when you're running large programs, scaling large change initiatives, and you realize the team is falling behind," Roz explains. "I think most people know me as a leader; I'm pretty direct," says one. So, if I notice a drop in performance, I don't wait too long to intervene, so at the end of a meeting, I might pull you aside and say, 'Here's how we can do this better.'"

5. Recognize that an agile team requires leadership to be challenged. This is a sobering reminder for executives: your agile teams will question business practices, which is fine. "Your most creative, risk-taking employees may be your most difficult employees because they end up pushing me as a leader. They make me uncomfortable because they want me to invest in an idea they have or bring me into the fold on a problem that I need to help them solve." Roz says.

6. Set clear metrics. Members of an agile team must understand the pace of the task at hand. As a leader, you must establish clear metrics and expectations. According to Roz, you need "a team that believes in the pace of work and understands how critical it is to stay on track."

Author: Wispaz Technologies