Towards high-performing agile product teams

Towards high-performing agile product teams

Digital product development is an ever-evolving and dynamic environment where collaboration, efficiency, innovation and rapid adaptation to circumstances blend together allowing agile/Scrum-based management to shine at its best. Being a hands-on player on numerous digital product development teams at SolutionLab throughout the years helped to identify important aspects to consider in a path toward high-performing teams listed below.

Ensure single-person product ownership

Rapid decision-making and clear direction are the basis of ensuring the development team is guided toward efficiency. Ideally, the product owner should be a single person, not a committee, with a deep understanding of digital product purpose from the business side and be able to make fast, independent product-level decisions and prioritize business goals to support and lead the development team.

Promote product knowledge sharing and co-creation

Product owners should regularly communicate product-related goals and direction to the development team, especially as it evolves with time, allowing the development team to adapt technical product implementation accordingly, keeping the big picture and future plans in mind. Furthermore, the Development team should be invited to actively contribute to the decision-making process and shaping product, gaining extra enthusiasm to deliver the best results as they see that they are invited to co-create together.

Foster a self-managed and cross-functional mindset

The development team should be trusted to organize itself with equal responsibility and full ownership to run the development process and deliver the results promised, moreover, the team structure should contain all the main functions, roles, and knowledge required to build digital products end-to-end to avoid bottlenecks or external dependencies that might prolong iterations. In case of absences of individual contributors or missing precise functions or qualifications required, team mindset and flexibility should allow to fill in and cover gaps to achieve completion of short-term goals promised.

Establish a clear Definition of Done

For different roles and team members with different perspectives „task is done“ might mean very different things: For the developer, a task might be done once the pull request is created to be merged. For QA engineer – when task works as per requirements. For product owner – when a new feature is released to production and is tested against market fit. Without clear agreement on what „task is done“ actually means the team might run into miscommunications, iteration planning issues, and other undesired side effects differing the value delivery. Agreeing on a clear definition of done with all the peers fosters common ground of getting things done the right way and on time.

Focus on priorities and limit work-in-progress

High-performing team should seek that all the activities in the iteration or product backlog should have an emphasis on the importance of each task. Usually, it is done by prioritizing every backlog item and following the order of the execution of the task until they satisfy the definition of done as soon as possible. „Stop starting, start finishing“ – a quote and a guideline that high-performing teams should keep in their minds allowing them to deliver value incrementally and offering an opportunity to collect feedback from market and end-users as soon as possible.

Invest in the team‘s understanding of Scrum

While Scrum provides a flexible framework for agile development that turned out to be a de-facto agile framework for the collaboration of development teams, its success hinges on a thorough understanding and diligent implementation of Scrum. At first glance, the Scrum process might seem to be loosely defined, a lot is left to interpretation, and the process is full of meetings and ceremonies without a very clear purpose or end result, encouraging to drop some essential Scrum process elements or artifacts from the process as not necessary or applicable, for example - retrospectives, backlog refinements, daily standups, etc.  To benefit from the Scrum framework to the full extent, a high-performing team composition should contain a Scrum master with deep, hands-on Scrum knowledge responsible for guiding all team members to the same level of understanding of Scrum. Scrum master ensures Scrum process is understood and followed in the right, insightful way, applied to the level of general team‘s understanding until it becomes fully adopted showing better way of team collaboration and results.

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Vytautas Pilipas SolutionLab

Vytautas Pilipas

CTO & Partner