What really matters when filling agile roles well

Or: What is the best way to create an agile team?

Whether you want to transform your business to agile or build a new agile team: In addition to competence and professional qualifications, the mindset and the individual personality are especially  decisive, whether agility works in your team or not. Here what you should pay attention to if you want to fill the roles in an agile framework well.

You want to build an agile team to implement your product vision flexibly, quickly and efficiently. You are familiar with the necessary roles for a Scrum framework:

The Product Owner has the greatest knowledge about the product as well as the needs of the customer and executes this vision through the team. He or she is responsible for product management and the overall result for the customer. Characteristics for this role include but are not limited to great entrepreneurial understanding, persuasion and assertiveness.


Entrepreneurial thinking, initiative, accountability and self-responsibility are required to be successful in an agile environment. 

The Scrum Master ensures a proper Scrum process. He or she is tough on the matter and soft on the man. The optimal Scrum Master has a particularly keen sense for interpersonal communication, works with team members individually and is especially conflict-tolerant, stress-resistant and resilient. He or she is a moderator, mediator and responsible for ensuring that the team can work smoothly. This ensures that the exchange between the product owner and the development team works optimally.

The Scrum Team implements the requirements in close cooperation with the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. The Scrum developer's profile includes a high level of technology, product knowledge, enthusiasm and team spirit as well as flexibility and an agile mindset.

If you want to make an existing project team agile, you have to be aware that not every developer or project manager wants to work with Scrum or Lean. To be successful in an agile environment requires entrepreneurial thinking, initiative and self-responsibility. This gives you the freedom to organize yourself and your work itself and enjoys the benefits of flat hierarchies.


Agile project management means being able to move flexibly within a fixed framework

That may not be everyone's greatest motivation or purpose. You need to be aware that traditional positions can not easily be translated one-to-one into agile roles only because they are supposedly similar. People who have been working for years in traditional projects can not be forced from one day to another to acquire everything that is needed for an agile mindset moving forward.

A traditional project manager has authority over what and how. However in agile project sequences this is not the case. Although the product owner specifies exactly what needs to be done in the form of requirements, the team itself decides how it will implement them. The hierarchy of a waterfall project is flatter in an agile environment. Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Scrum Team stand as one unit on one level and the responsibility for the success of the project is shared equally.

So how do you proceed? In order to fill an agile role well, you must consider the requirements on the basis of suitable competencies and personal characteristics. In doing so, agile roles are less rigidly defined than traditional job descriptions, since individual personal characteristics can adapt and expand the tasks and areas of responsibility.


Find people who bring an agile mindset and who fit into the role, both from their professional expertise and their personal competence

In an interview, the specific qualifications can be more easily judged by expert discussions than the personality. Nevertheless, you can use a few criteria to determine if your preferred candidate is suitable for the role. Of course, he or she needs the desire and motivation to take on this role and bring along an agile mindset.

Unlike classic hierarchical corporate structures, agile teams are organized in units or squads - derived from the Spotify model. These self-organizing units can be built for either a project, a department or a whole company.

They are set up so that each organizational unit can implement features from A to Z autonomously. The responsibilities are precisely attributed to the roles and these determine the tasks and activities. This clear demarcation is important in order to avoid conflicts over responsibilities and hierarchical structures within the units.


Autonomous teams strengthen companies and employees

In agile companies, employees can change their roles as well as their squads, depending on the current requirements. Roles may temporarily remain vacant or taken over by two people. Thus, the organization, the project and the people are given greater flexibility to develop products at a higher efficiency. At the same time, employees have the opportunity to expand their strengths in several areas within the company.

In order to pursue these goals, it is important for HR or agile line management to have close communication on personal development as well as current and planned projects to ensure proactive and sustainable project success as well as internal people development.


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About the author:

Christina Schwarz

Scrum Master / People Line Manager

The certified Scrum Master with years of experience in coaching teams and individuals is thrilled with an agile mindset. It helps teams become more efficient, successful and satisfied. Christina especially motivates the positive surprises that await us outside the comfort zone.

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How to become a learning organization

14 Dec 2018, 15:14
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In times of the VUCA world, the motto "change or die" shapes the business world. Who does not join in with the rapid changes in the (IT) world and doesn´t adapt, is left behind. Smart learning is essential to the survival of the entire organization and a crucial key for continuous improvement. It can bring the technical know-how with innovative and interactive methods and stimulates efficient knowledge exchange within the teams.

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