How to develop an agile team

An agile organisation will try to incorporate the agile methodology into its culture, based on forming agile teams and using a specific technology. It is easy to understand that the key to success lies in the team and especially in its capacity for self-coordination. An agile team collectively assumes full responsibility for the success of its results in delivering to customers and users. These teams are multifunctional, and they work collaboratively. They feel cohesive and commit to defining the characteristics of the product to be delivered. Therefore, getting teams to be self-coordinating is critical in the process. But, the central question is, how to develop a team that is truly self-coordinating and has a high level of commitment?

Self-coordination

The bad news is that it is not easy; the good news is that it is possible. You will need to approach the challenge at three levels. At the individual level of attitudes and aptitudes. At the group level with commitment and alignment. At the organisational level with cultural change.
The key factors in facilitating cultural integration and change, breaking down silos and improving inter- and intra-team coordination, aligning objectives, and focusing the organisation on customers will be:

  1. The Objective: Innovation and Efficiency. Success in an ever-changing world means adaptation by innovating and doing new things or being more efficient at doing the same things with fewer resources.
  2. The Key: Communication and Knowledge. Communication is understood as an interactive process of building new realities. Knowledge is obtained through self-experience and interaction.
  3. The Energy: Entrepreneurship and Proactivity. In a time of uncertainty, it is riskier to stay still than it is to move in the wrong direction. Proactivity, initiative and experimentation will maintain the movement needed for us to adapt.
  4. The Magnet: Teamwork and Commitment. The whole process of alignment of business objectives achieves results by ensuring involvement and a focus on strategic priorities.
  5. The Method: Distributed Leadership and Coordination. Distributed Leadership is necessary to create the right conditions for the emergence of decentralised and spontaneous self-coordination.
  6. The Framework: Complexity and Uncertainty. Today’s interconnected, global society has increased task interdependencies and, as a consequence, the issue of managing complexity is now at the top of executive concerns.

Traditionally, decision-making and management have been founded on order, stability and certainty. Managers are often neither trained nor accustomed to coping with unpredictable events and conditions. The anxiety and bewilderment that come with conditions of uncertainty and complexity are confusing and inhibiting, and so having a reference framework for inducing changes in these situations is especially valuable.
The Cooplexity Model facilitates the implementation of an agile and collaborative culture through six steps that work at individual, group and organisational levels. These steps are closely inter-related and cannot be unbound from each other. To achieve a self-coordinated team, all the steps must be completed, and all associated policies and procedures must be consistent with each other across the individual, group and organisational levels.

Individual level

When gathering information, if there are no available references, this process is undertaken through exploration and learning.
Adaptation is the result of a circular and constant process of experimenting, understanding and modelling. Initiatives take on an essential role. Error tolerance through failure with limited impact versus avoidance of failure becomes an indispensable companion.

Team level

When individuals interact in groups, long-term commitment is necessary to build a real team. It is around a catalyst like a common project that members will share ideas and unify analysis and enthusiasm will become contagious.
Cohesion is by far the most critical factor in teamwork. Considered as crucial by the majority of researchers, it is a prerequisite for the achievement of full collaboration.

Organisational level

Empowering collaborators to make decisions through established mechanisms is necessary for the emergence of decentralised and spontaneous self-coordination.
Self-coordination is the real enabler of effectiveness. The promotion of self-coordination, or rather, the stimulus for its emergence, changes the traditional approach to management. It turns from actions and decisions focused on the group to actions and decisions focused on the context of the group. Creating adequate conditions to facilitate the emergence of self-coordination instead of forcing predefined actions is fundamental to the model.

Conclusion

The collaboration culture necessary to boost an agile organisation affects the three levels of the model and implies Tolerance of Error for individuals, aligning goals around a Common Project for teams and a Decentralised Structure at the organisational level.
Ultimately, the objective is to empower skilled and motivated collaborators to make decisions following the strategy, which means the emergence of full spontaneous collaboration.
From talent to leadership, from proactivity to entrepreneurial decisions and from collaboration to innovation, the answer to a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world is teams.

Reference

  • Zamora Enciso, R. (2018). Cooplexity: A model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change (Third edit). Barcelona: Lulu.com. (Amazon)