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Agile Best Practices for Effective Team

06th Jun, 2024
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    Agile Best Practices for Effective Team

    The use of agile approaches has fundamentally transformed the information technology sector. However, what is Agile exactly? Small development cycles, or "sprints," are part of the agile project management style, which lays the emphasis on providing continual improvement to a product or service. A sprint is a set period during which the team is expected to finish a specific task. The team reviews their performance and discusses ways to improve the work at the end of each sprint. 

    Agile is the umbrella term for several frameworks and the techniques that govern them. A few well-known agile project management frameworks are Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and XP. Implementing the best Agile practices can help leverage your Agile team and make it effective. 

    Why Should Organizations Implement Agile and Require an Agile Team?

    Organizations should first understand and build their best agile practices and culture around the fact that agility is ultimately a mindset shift from traditional ways of working. Business or organization agility involves creating that structure or framework, which helps and allows operations to flourish positively in the wake of adversities, change, or challenges. Organizations need to bring in that shift-left approach to ensure that agility is a harbinger of a multitude of benefits over merely making it an adjective and not yielding its real power. This is why the business needs agility in every space of its operations to be flexible, fast, and responsive to the new-age challenges.

    Implementation of Agile in Organizations

    20 Best Practices for Agile Teams

    Let's look at some general practices for efficient, agile project management before moving on to Agile best practices for implementing each. You can even get an Agile management certification to learn professional skills. Some of the best Agile practices used for creating an effective team include: 

    Some more Agile practices for an effective team include - 

    • Build projects around motivated individuals
    • Convey information face-to-face
    • Form self-organizing teams
    • Tasks Prioritization
    • Reflect on how teams can become more effective
    • Creating the sprint backlog during a planning meeting 
    • Encouraging self-organizing teams 
    • Maintain charts to monitor progress 
    • Sprint retrospectives to learn from the previous sprint 
    • Sprint reviews to present work 
    • Release planning meeting to create a release plan 
    • Cross training 
    • Creating an ideal Agile workspace where the team enjoys working
    • Setting a sustainable pace 
    • Estimating the projected velocity
    • Always having the customer available 
    • Creating spike solutions to reduce risks 
    • Work together with the client 
    • Build projects around motivated people 
    • Transmit information in person 

    1. Build projects around motivated individuals

    This is undoubtedly one of the most underrated best practices of agile methodology which involves maintaining the trust and belief to keep team members exhilarated to adapt, collaborate, communicate, and achieve greater heights as they progress ahead. Organizations need to foster a culture of growth and minimize distractions to keep team members engaged in the right direction along with ensuring no disruptions to either the team, the process, or the deliverables. Team members need to collaborate as well as get their think time or my time for thoughtful and focused development. 

    2. Convey information face-to-face

    To build trust and engage positively without any perceptions, there flourishes another important best practice of agile methodology which lays impetus on face-to-face and collaborative communication over traditional methods. Whether it involves having co-located teams in a common building or team members spread across geographies, having face-to-face communication channels opens up avenues to deeper insights, as well as helps build sustainable and persistently evolving agile teams.

    3. Form self-organizing teams

    Agile scrum best practices involve creating deliverables or working around team members who focus, share responsibility, adapt, and can self-organize with minimal to no supervision. Agile propagates delegation of authority and responsibility to teams to ensure they are aware and make decisions to support overall goals beyond individual aspirations. These teams can quickly acclimate to the critical needs, and feedback or avoid pitfalls by thoughtful practices and addressing the "how" work gets done.

    4. Tasks Prioritization

    It is one of the well-known daily scrum best practices that the product management function or the business can help teams mature on the path of agility by ensuring their bit of prioritization and detailing is done thoroughly. To support agile teams in their endeavor to thrive as a cross-functional, self-organizing, result-oriented, innovating, and problem-solving unit, the organization must lay down a framework that defines the "what" of work and keeps it detailed to form a healthy product and sprint backlog which meets the definition of ready by all means for the agile team to take up. Having a healthy product backlog is not only one of the important agile scrum best practices but also an important OKR on which an agile team is continuously assessed.

    5. Reflect on how teams can become more effective

    Agile teams need to constantly reflect on their ways of working to ensure the right set of agile best practices for effective team functioning are being followed and also to weed out any frictions/processes that may be slowing down productivity. While teams focus on continuous delivery, they also need to reflect on celebrating wins and improvements that can bring in innovative approaches over mundane practices. There are various formats of a retrospective that agile teams can use to master this agile best practice, they all essentially address the 3 important questions: 

    • What went well (What can teams continue doing) 
    • What can be improved (What can teams stop doing) 
    • Key Action Items (Takeaways/learnings to adopt changes) 

    6. Creating the sprint backlog during a planning meeting 

    The product owner presents high-priority features at these sessions, and the team answers questions and develops specific tasks for the sprint backlog. 

    7. Encouraging self-organizing teams 

    The ability to make decisions and adjust to shifting demands is a benefit of self-organizing teams. Team members offer their services instead of waiting for the team leader to assign work. This guarantees a stronger sense of dedication and ownership. 

    8. Maintain charts to monitor progress 

    Burndown charts can be kept up to date to monitor development. A burndown chart plots the amount of work remaining against the amount of time. When estimating when all of the work will be finished is quite helpful. 

    9. Sprint retrospectives to learn from the previous sprint 

    This meeting is held to review the most recent sprint and decide what could be altered to make the following sprint more fruitful. 

    10. Sprint reviews to present work 

    The team displays the product backlog items they finished during the sprint during this meeting. A PowerPoint presentation or a demonstration of fresh features could be used. 

    11. Release planning meeting to create a release plan 

    The primary goal of the release planning meeting is for the development team to estimate the number of ideal programming weeks needed to complete each user story. The customer then determines which tale has the highest priority for completion and is the most important. 

    12. Cross training 

    The project's progress may be slowed down if only one member of your team is capable of working in a particular area and that individual decides to quit or simply has too much to accomplish. Cross-training makes your team more adaptable and helps to avoid this problem. 

    13. Creating an ideal Agile workspace where the team enjoys working 

    The following elements should be present in the ideal agile workspace: 

    • large, readable charts (a visual reminder of the current state of the project) 
    • the opportunity to observe each team member (everyone should be visible in the team workspace) 
    • massive whiteboards (at least one where developers may share problems and seek solutions) 
    • a calm and intimate setting (for relaxing, working alone or private calls) 

    ​14. ​Setting a sustainable pace 

    A manageable pace assists the team in planning releases and iterations and prevents overtime. 

    15. Estimating the projected velocity 

    Project velocity's major goal is to assist teams in estimating how much work they can complete in a specific amount of time based on how quickly earlier iterations of the same task were finished. 

    16. Always having the customer available 

    The consumer must be accessible at all times. It is preferable to designate a customer or clients to the development team. 

    17. Creating spike solutions to reduce risks 

    A very basic software to investigate potential solutions is called a spike solution. It aids in finding solutions to challenging technical or design issues. 

    18. Work together with the client 

    When needs and wishes are met, expectations are met, and requirements are satisfied, the consumer is happy. Software engineers have devised several methods, short of mindreading, to ascertain what the customer wants and provide it. At one end of the funnel, teams often record user needs before delivering the product at the other end with little to no client engagement in between. An agile team keeps in close contact with the client to clarify expectations, work on fixes, and present possibilities that hadn't been thought of before. 

    19. Build projects around motivated people

    To push through a demanding development cycle and complete the work correctly, one needs motivation. Agile teams are committed to their job, laser-focused on the collective objective, and collegial. Agile teams create a fast-paced, predictable rhythm to their work when there is mutual trust and respect among the team members. It's challenging to create an environment where this can occur. 

    20. Transmit information in person

    Agile team members like in-person interactions, whether discussing a challenging issue with a coworker or reporting on the day's accomplishments during a daily meeting. Progress is slowed down or blocked by information lost in a busy email box or voice mail queue. The daily meeting is the only time the complete staff gets together to discuss any problems that can result in delays. 

    Agile Best Practices: Scrum Project Management

    Agile scrum is established as the most widely adopted and successful framework of the agile bandwagon bringing in best practices of agile into a lightweight framework for teams to fly-off with agility as they commence. Here are some top best practices adopted by scrum teams to reduce chaos:

    Effective Daily Standup - The daily stand-up of any scrum team is not merely a simple scrum ceremony but, it nourishes the scrum process of the team driving effective planning, transparency, inspection, and adaptation to the team, customer, and process sentiments. Apart from being an important part of the testing practices in agile, effective daily stand-ups steer the feedback loop from strategic planning to daily planning.

    Planning at all levels - A virtuous planning exercise involves team involvement at all levels of planning right from understanding the product vision to reviewing the roadmap, participation in release and iteration planning, and contribution to the daily stand-up by all team members. This encourages team members to be accountable for their activities while also allowing the core principles of the team to define the "how to" of getting things done.

    Besides these, key practices of agile of realtime projects include:

    • Having at least 2-3 sprints of a healthy and prioritized product backlog for the team which meets the Definition of Ready metric 
    • Maintaining progress on visual indicators for the team to be aware and constantly course-correct. 
    • Establishing clear communication guidelines, team agreements, and templates that allow the team to focus on innovative work over operational tasks 
    • Regular maturity assessments and checks to understand the progress of agile processes. 

    Agile Best Practices: Kanban Project Management

    Kanban project management is a framework within the agile methodologies umbrella that is focused on visualizing the workflow i.e. to discern how work items 'flow' from business to the teams, after which to embrace the agile best practices checklist to limit work in progress, reduce turnaround time and enable continuous execution. Much like scrum, kanban is a framework or a set of tools focused on laying down the principles of agility and maturing them over time. Here are some best practices of agile that Kanban teams can apply to maximize their throughput:

    Visualize and Manage Workflow - It is important for teams working in the Kanban framework to understand project intricacies, stakeholders, operational needs, and business exigencies to visualize work, workflow, and impending risks/challenges and position items, team members, and deliveries accordingly.

    Limit Work-in-Progress (WiP) - Team members working in agile teams need to inculcate the mindset shift to be self-organizing and sustaining but with this also comes an important attribute of finishing items that have been started. A visible behavior over time that agile teams can showcase is to start everything but not be able to finish anything which maximizes the amount of WiP items without their actual delivery. This is where the best agile practices and OKR metrics such as lead time and cycle time help teams keep a tab of how much work enters the system and values output over work in progress. 

    Process transparency and collaborative evolution - All processes, policies, and procedures of the team must be explicitly made visible to all team members who share the onus of upholding them and evolving experimentally. Team members need to respect the WiP limits, and process guidelines to ensure they plan, do, check, and act on observations to ensure tranquil delivery and symmetrical alignment of the team, work, and achievements.

    Agile Best Practices Associated with Extreme Programming (XP) 

    Extreme programming (XP) is a popular and structured agile project management framework that envisions simplicity and smaller iterations of development. Here are some crucial practices of agile recommended for this framework:

    Pair programming - Pair programming is almost synonymous with extreme programming as it is one of the core practices on which the framework is established. Pair programming involves two or more engineers working side-by-side to design and code together to achieve optimistic programming methods and built-in quality.

    Devops - Devops which helps organizations establish continuous integration processes has its origins in XP, as it spearheads delivery by shortening cycles and focusing on faster and coordinated deliveries between development and operations.

    Coding standards - To achieve the definition of done after validating individual story level acceptance criteria, and reduce hiccups in the CICD cycles, development team members need to establish stringent coding and quality standards that stand out as the guiding best practice of the framework. 

    Agile Best Practices for Global Teams 

    Every organization squabbles to scale their agile practices from the team level to the organization level by ratification of practices of agile such as:

    • Embracement of agile for all business and enablement functions of the organization
    • Taking up enterprise-level scaled agile practices/principles to ensure synchronous planning and delivery mechanisms.
    • Effectively engaging team members by having breakout sessions, and team-building activities apart from the agile ceremonies to keep the team bonded.
    • Supporting teams through initiatives such as automation, DevOps integrations, big-room planning, etc to usher constant progress.

    I am sure you by now have a vivid overview of how each framework of the agile project management canopy has its own best practices in helping teams ace a perfected governance framework and processes. A lot of organizations that use hybrid frameworks may tailor processes and take benefit of overlapping practices which culminate to bring in the best of both into their processes, policies, and procedures.

    Lean Development Model

    Implementing lean manufacturing principles into project management procedures is the core of lean project management. These guidelines generally concentrate on getting rid of the trash or anything else that doesn't offer value to the work. Identifying values, cutting waste, and continual improvement are a few strategies for implementing lean project management success

    Extreme Programming (XP)

    Using the extreme programming framework of agile project management, developers may produce software of greater quality while also working more productively and figuring out the best approach to work together on code. Important XP-related Agile best practices include - 

    • Planning game: Every team member should come together and participate in the planning game. 
    • Test-driven Development: Before writing the final code, continuous tests are executed to validate each line of code's functionality. 
    • Simple Design: Software with a simple design is easier to build and requires less work to fix issues. 
    • Small Releases: This idea emphasizes small releases throughout product development, operating on an iteration-like premise. 

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    Key Benefits of Using Agile

    Agile encapsulates the achievement of strategic objectives and corresponding team-level goals in shorter cycles and iterations of activities which include changes and evaluation of how the outcome is going to shape out. This cycle helps teams deliver to customer needs and more importantly shorter time to market which is one of the critical metrics of organization assessment in today's volatile environment.

    Apart from this embarking on the journey towards agile offers several benefits such as:

    Flexibility - Agile teams face better flexibility in terms of ways of working, change management, and domain/technology adoptions due to their abilities to switch contexts, cross-functional skills, self-organizing abilities, and collaborative functioning.

    Built-in Quality - In an agile way of working, quality becomes everyone's responsibility as well as a key OKR for the team to progress smoothly from one iteration to the other without causing too many process hiccups. Also, defects found either by the QA or UAT team members or by the business tend to get fixed in a short time considering iterative development.

    Customer Satisfaction - Agile involves close customer involvement in building products based on continuous and immediate feedback loops. This results in positive customer engagement, higher net promoter score, and appeased customers driving sales, revenues, and reputation.

    Benefits of Agile Adoption

    Final Thoughts

    Many sectors that focus on developing products or services through a continuous cycle of incremental adjustments are widely utilizing the agile methodology. Many firms have found success in implementing Agile. However, this success depends on how effectively the best practices in Agile are being executed. As you can see, there is a wide variety of options to pick from when it comes to these Agile best practices. Understanding your team's and business's needs and then meeting those needs effectively are the keys to implementing a "best" practice.   

    The best way to scale Agile is for businesses to use it regardless of how big or complicated the project is. Small teams, short iterations, quick customer feedback, value-based business priorities, and including users in requirement refinement are all examples of effective approaches.  

    Agile methodologies are durable because of the underlying ideals and tenets that shape how people collaborate. Agile teams that prioritize cooperation, everyday engagement, individual motivation, face-to-face communication, self-organization, and continuous improvement will be more likely to succeed when they come together in businesses of all sizes. 

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    1Which is the most widely used Agile practice?

    According to the stage of the agile survey, with 56% adoption, Scrum undoubtedly is the most popular and widely adopted agile practice followed by hybrid practices.

    2What are the Agile best practices for the development team?

    Collaboration, self-organizing abilities, cross-functional skills, automation of testing activities, and constantly meeting the definition of done are some of the key best practices of agile for a development team.

    3What is the role of a Scrum Master in Agile practices?

    The Scrum master acts as a servant-leader serving the team and also acts as a process-owner, and change agent who upholds agile values, protects the team, and helps remove any impediments teams may face to accomplish the sprint/release goals.

    4What is the role of automated testing in Agile practices?

    Test automation is a key best practice and a valuable tool that helps the team embrace agile effectively by yielding benefits such as velocity, accuracy, and sufficiency of the test activities to enable accelerated delivery.


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

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