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8 Characteristics of High Performing Agile Teams
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In times of change and uncertainty (and if we're being honest, most of the rest of the time too), a high performing team is the most reliable source of innovative ideas. But it's neither the organizational culture nor individual performance that dictates success. It's the teams those individuals are part of.
Clear, Shared Purpose
Teams need a clear rationale for why they've come together
When there's a clear purpose for a team, they can evaluate requests, projects, and ideas against that purpose
Ideally teams in general, and marketing teams in particular, should form around customer-centric goals
Provide value to customers early and often
A Few Clear KPIs
Closely tied to the team's shared, customer-centric purpose is their focus on a few core KPIs (key performance indicators).
These metrics indicate whether or not the team is effectively working toward their goal.
They allow the team to further refine their selected activities.
Owners of the 'How'
For teams to provide amazing solutions to thorny problems, they need a high degree of autonomy around the how - otherwise known as the how.
Overly prescriptive demands strip teams of their motivation and make them feel disconnected from the work they do.
As Cross-Functional as Possible
A cross-functional team contains all the necessary skills for completing their work
Increases productivity while reducing their waiting time
Pure cross-functionality is often a challenge, particularly in marketing where you have a large number of subject matter experts who need to contribute only occasionally
It's therefore important that we evaluate the skills needed for each team to reach their established KPIs and try to staff for those capabilities
High performing teams need to be fairly small
Ideally between four and 10 people
Smaller teams get more done and innovate more often
The bigger the team gets, the more time will be spent communicating and navigating internal relationships
lightweight tools like a scaled daily standup, also known as a scrum of scrums, can allow for rapid connection between these small teams
One Clear Point of Contact
When teams do need to interact with one another, and when internal stakeholders need to bring them requests, there should be one person to talk to
This person should be the buffer between the team and its stakeholders
For fully functioning Agile teams, the team lead will be responsible for maintaining their backlog
Aligned to Bigger Goals
There should be a clear throughline from daily activities the team spends their time on and larger goals
Project management tools are useful in this regard
By keeping these connections (or lack thereof) clear in a workflow management tool, you can develop a clear picture of what percentage of the team's time is spent on particular goals
Team members need to feel safe speaking their minds, even if that means fundamentally disagreeing with leaders or fellow team members
Google discovered that the presence of psychological safety was the most stable predictor of team success
You can't just show up one day and declare psychological safety now exists, it's built over the long term by consistent, repeated actions
High Performing Teams: Tough, But Worth It
Once you have them, you have an inexhaustible engine for problem solving and innovation