Who’s who in the world of Agile?
The success of a high-performing Agile team is often dependent upon clearly defined roles. Scrum, one of the main forms of Agile, relies on distinct roles and responsibilities to ensure that a team works efficiently, delivering value to customers in a faster and more qualitative way.
Agile focuses on a team breaking down a project into smaller actionable tasks, and then prioritising their importance to the customer. Agile teams consistently improve and deliver these valuable tasks through short cycles known as sprints or iterations.
A good way to think of Agile is tackling a to-do list. To ensure that your team is successful, you begin by ranking tasks by order of importance, then doing them, and lastly, reviewing your progress.
The roles of a Scrum team
If we look specifically at Scrum, there are three clearly defined roles: a Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and the development team.
A Scrum Master is also known as the ‘servant leader’. Their role in Agile is to facilitate and coach the team to success. A Scrum Master’s focus is to get their development team working towards their clearly defined common goal and unblock any challenges that arise.
Scrum Masters ensure a project is on track and coach the team when any issues arise. Rather than the outcome itself, a Scrum Master’s responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum process is followed with the team adopting an agile mindset.
Product Owners, on the other hand, are the conduit between the development team and their customers (these customers can be external or internal). Product Owners are in charge of the project vision and are responsible for breaking down a project into smaller components before prioritisation.
The accountability of Product Owners also involves maximising the value of a product by ensuring the expectations of the completed product are communicated and agreed upon for both customers and the organisation.
The Development Team
Development or dev teams are autonomous executors and are self-directed with specific skills to get the job done. A dev team is responsible for the physical delivery of the product specifications during a sprint or iteration and generally includes business analysts, developers, and testers.
Business Analysts act as the link between the business units and technology, defining user needs and articulating development requirements.
Developers build the software which then gets validated as correctly functioning according to the user’s requirements by testers before the item is released and marked as “done”.
What makes a good Scrum team?
There are a number of characteristics that are distinctive to a great Scrum team, with one of the most important characteristics being, “Does the team share the same working and development philosophy?”
A team’s cohesiveness and ability to take accountability for their shared success — and failure — is crucial in the delivery of successful products. It is here that a Product Owner’s role is vital in empowering the team’s accountability and responsiveness.
Another attribute of a successful Scrum team is its ability to be independent. A self-organising team that contains too much hierarchy or red tape is going to be counterproductive in an agile environment. As such, a Scrum team needs to have a balanced skill set, but be collaborative in order to be high-performing.
The roles in Lean Kanban team
Another form of Agile is Lean Kanban, and refers to a visual workflow that focuses on iterative, continuous improvement. On a high level, Lean Kanban organises work into four steps:
- Identifying what needs to be done
- Planning what needs to be done
- Doing the work
In Lean Kanban, the continuous work-in-progress flow means there are no specific team roles required. Rather, each Lean Kanban team member focuses on reducing the time it takes to complete a project or user story from start to finish.
A development team is still required to complete a project or user story, it’s just that these roles are not mandatory or prescribed as a must like in Scrum.
Typically, a Kanban team will have less than 15 members and include testers, analysts, and project managers. While these are not prescribed roles, Lean Kanban teams include all specialists that are necessary for the delivery of a successful product.
The iterative nature of Kanban does not have separate plans or iterations and do not have a specific timeframe attached to their delivery. This means that Kanban cycles have increased flexibility as a project’s customers can reprioritise backlog items and include new tasks to be done even when a project has been completed.
Characteristics of successful Kanban teams
Similarly to Scrum teams, there are a number of factors that contribute towards successful Kanban teams:
A clearly articulated Kanban board can help teams visualise their workflow. By using swimlanes, each team member has increased transparency on the number of tasks they have to do and also spot any issues that arise in the workflow. Increased workflow visibility leads to increased efficiencies.
Focus on completing not starting work
Instead of increasing dead-time through context switching or multi-tasking, Kanban teams focus on one task at a time and see it from start to completion. This process prevents burnout and increases the visibility of each team member’s WIP and what needs to be completed next.
Increasing customer satisfaction
While a team is working more efficiently and effectively, another characteristic of a successful Kanban team is improving customer satisfaction.
In the “pull” approach of Kanban, work is only commenced when there is a real customer demand, which means tasks are completed “just-in-time” as per the needs of the market.
Both Scrum and Lean Kanban offer a variety of roles and responsibilities that enable teams to work towards clearly defined goals, in an efficient and effective manner. High self-organisation means that Scrum and Kanban teams are accountable and drive in-demand changes to the market in a well-oiled workflow.
Learn how you can adopt the mindset of Scrum and Kanban, work in effective teams and become certified in Scrum and Kanban with our Agile course.