In our market today, successful teams are those that adapt, grow, and thrive in the rapidly changing tech scape. Consumer demands are evolving, technology is growing bolder, and industry leaders are adapting. Agile, as the name suggests, is modeled with adaptability in mind.
Agile project management and team leadership are best showcased by leading a team of developers in completing software development projects. Agile can also be applied across numerous other industries as an effective project management approach.
Agile At A Glance.
Agile is here to stay. In the 13th Annual State of Agile survey that was conducted, around 97% have cited to be implementing Agile methodologies, with most having used for 3 to 5 years. Scrum is the most popular Agile methodology, with Jira, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Project, being the most popular tool to be used in Agile project management. And most importantly, 46% of those use Agile methods extend the practice towards managing outsourced projects.
So why is Agile project management methodologies that popular?
One of the basic tenets of Agile software development is responsiveness to change and working on what is identified as most important at a given iteration. Priorities can change for any given iteration, and the development team, with the support of the team leaders, adapts accordingly.
One of the basic tenets of Agile software development is responsiveness to change and prioritizing the most important at a given iteration. Priorities can change for any given iteration, and the development team, with the support of the team leaders, adapts accordingly.
Agile management implements rapid cyclical iterations, where each iteration focused on a specific requirement for the project. Each iteration covers the entire development lifecycle from design to comprehensive quality control and reviews as outputs are developed. These iterations are time-bound and with progress reviewed by both the team and the client. These rapid iterations ensure that there are tangible outputs that as the project progresses. Agile development team adaptability ensures that any changes along the way are incorporated into the iterations, reducing the impact on the project as a whole.
The rapid and cyclical work iterations enable clients and team leaders to be more flexible with releasing the project. The more traditional approach is to ensure all requirements identified at the start of the project has been developed, then release the product to the market. With agile, the project can be released in stages and with sufficient functionality to be usable. Adjustments can be made along the way, but releases still push through.
Traditionally, all the project requirements, timelines, designs, and deliverables are defined and hashed out before starting development. In contrast, Agile development teams approach a project by breaking down requirements into iterations and phases. They then build functionality and features as they iterate through the project. Less documentation and planning are involved at the start but the project incrementally grows in this approach.
However, there are challenges when employing this leadership team development approach.
- It’s not easy to learn or adapt when starting a project.
- Lack of a clear understanding of how to best apply Agile methods and processes.
- Agile methods and processes do not fit the current work culture.
- Challenging to predict the outcome of projects.
- Adapting to scale.
How to Lead a Team of Developers the Agile Way.
Agile software development teams are not only popular but are effective in producing high-quality products. To lead such teams can be a challenge. Here are a few tips on how to best lead a team the agile way.
1. Define your goals and objectives.
It is best to start any project with everyone having the same goal. Each agile team works on a specific feature or tool that is a part of the 1 system. They must be empowered and have ownership of their assigned features. Their successes are theirs as much as it is the entire group. As a leader, your priority is to ensure everyone on your team knows and understands the goal of the entire project. You need to ensure that everyone is working towards achieving it.
2. Manage both team and individual tasks.
The most critical aspect of Agile software development is the consistent and continuous delivery of defined requirements. Great Agile teams are those that can provide consistent velocity in delivering quality outputs. As a team manager, your most essential responsibility is to ensure consistency and quality in delivered outputs for the project. And managing tasks, and managing them well, goes a long way to ensuring this happens.
A few tips to managing tasks:
- Track EVERYTHING! From todos, ideas, technical debts, issues, research, all of it!
- Ensure that everyone is tracking everything that they will and are working on.
- Ensure everyone has access to and is using the same platform for tracking their tasks.
- Review and revise your tasks. Breakdown large tasks into smaller and more manageable ones. Take note and monitor dependent tasks.
- Only work on tasks when it is at its simplest complexity, otherwise, revisit the previous tip.
- Assign and breakdown tasks according to how your developers perceive them.
3. Encourage and support collaboration within and among teams.
A great team leader ensures that developers will have minimal impediments in their work as possible. This requires leaders to collaborate and communicate with the different teams and departments (design, operations, and product managers) to flesh out as much of the needed details before development starts. Another attribute of a great leader is the capability to encourage and support collaboration amongst your teams.
4. Make your teams compact and diverse.
Agile software development teams are small and compact, usually numbering around 5 to 9 per team. Compact teams help ensure streamlined communication and collaboration within the teams, which then leads to better performance and output. Teams also need to comprise of members that are skilled across the development stack. This ensures that teams are independent and capable of managing and developing their tools for the entire development cycle.
1. Build and sustain communication lines.
Communication is key to any group dynamic. As the leader, you need to build a communication line with and among your teams. Choose a platform that everyone can diligently use. Encouraging open communication within teams will help smoothen collaboration and improve their productivity.
2. Regularly check in with your teams.
Because teams are working on their features and tools, project and team lead need to regularly check in to ensure everyone is up-to-date with the progress of the project. This can also be an opportunity for teams to communicate their concerns, blockers, and ideas that may affect them, other teams, or the project as a whole.
Regular check-ins are also great when monitoring the performance and health of the teams. Leaders can use the following metrics to measure team health.
- Cycle time of tasks
- Number of accepted points per contributor
- Number of accepted stories
- Number of outstanding bugs
- Number of introduced bugs
- Delivery date shifts
- Average daily production deployments
1. Establish a quality control process.
The agile method ensures that projects are broken down into iterations and phases. All teams are expected to deliver quality outputs for each iteration based on identified requirements and design. Each iteration goes through the entire development process from design to deployment. It is important to include quality control processes in each iteration to ensure the quality of outputs that the teams are delivering.
2. Prioritize and manage your technical debts.
Technical debts are tasks, features, action points, or improvements that need to be done but have been sidelined to complete product deployment. Technical debts are unavoidable in software development projects. It is the project leader and team leaders’ responsibility to ensure that technical debts do not pile up and end up being the only thing that the developers are working on.
Great Agile team development leaders can space out the process of addressing these technical debts and ensure that they are continuously paid. Just like any task, leaders also need to review and, when necessary, break down these technical debts to actionable tasks.
1. Encourage continuous learning.
Software development requires developers to continuously learn and practice their skills. Leaders are the ones that anticipate team needs and future projects. Leaders should encourage teams and individuals to continue developing and building on their skills. Not only will they improve themselves but will also improve the productivity, efficiency, and capabilities of the team as a whole.
2. Be a mentor.
Leaders are all about keeping the big picture in mind, but also helping the individual to grow and develop. Great leaders and great mentors. They groom their developers by providing constructive and helpful feedback and advocating for best development practices. They contribute to building the capacity of their developers by delegating tasks of increasing complexity. They also encourage peer programming for better technical guidance. Overall success is measured by the success of the individual.
Being agile means moving from a conventional and traditional management style to a more dynamic and agile team roles and methods (pun unintended). Agile development management teaches responsiveness, interpersonal relationship skills, and adaptability in leadership team development. Once you know your needs and management style, the way to hire a team of developers for your project will be easier.
Learn, grow, and be the best Agile Development Team leader you can be!