Project team members should focus on how the team can be most productive. Often, when organizations introduce individual performance metrics in a team environment, team member performance actually goes down, instead of up. Agile project team members will succeed or fail as a single unit, not individually. In an agile environment, the entire project team should be aligned in its commitment to the goal, its ownership of the scope of work, and its acknowledgment of the time available to achieve that commitment.
The greatest NBA teams understand that it’s impossible to win a division or world title without cooperation and teamwork. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, regularly communicated during press conferences that he is but one player on the team and that to win it must be a team effort, not an individual effort. Although he had incredible skills in all areas as an individual team member, he was willing to teach those skills to the younger players, and therefore improve the team as a whole. It’s the same for an agile project team.
Following are some strategies for thinking and acting as a team:
- Develop in pairs and switch partners often. In pair programming two development team members who are knowledgeable in a specific area program the code together. When shadowing, one team member who is new to a specific area shadows (looks over the shoulder) of a more knowledgeable team member. Both of these processes raise product quality and increase cross-functionality.
- Replace individual work titles with a uniform “product developer” title.
- Report at the project team level only, as opposed to creating special management reports that subdivide the team.
- Replace individual performance metrics with project team performance metrics.
The old adage “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is an important one in terms of agile. When each individual on an agile project team collaborates and becomes cross-functional by thinking and acting as a team, they can react quickly to changing project variables and increase their agility even further.