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Define Agile Team Structure – Agile team vs Traditional Team

An Agile team structure is flexible and cross-functional as compared to traditional teams, with the component of being self-organized. These qualities make the team Agile and adaptive to changes. The first element of building an Agile team structure is that every individual in the group should be thorough with the Agile principles and values.

 As an incremental, adaptive, and iterative model, the task in Agile product development is divided into manageable units between the team so that the workflow is maintained.

In this article, we will learn about the characteristics of an Agile team and the types of Agile team structures in place. We will also draw a comparison between Agile vs Traditional team structures to understand how Agile teams have evolved from traditional models.

  1. Agile Development Team Structure: Characteristics
  • Self-organized

As the 12th Principle of Agile goes, “The Best Architectures, Requirements, and Designs Emerge from Self-organising Teams”, an agile team must be self-organized. 

Being self-organized means that the team can fall back on themselves and provide solutions, and each team member carries out the task assigned confidently. They will be provided with the best infrastructure and requirements to executing their skillset.

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They resolve their impediments and get the product development moving ahead.

Most of the team-related decisions are taken by the team, not by the leaders. They estimate, plan, commit, execute and deliver value. They constantly reflect and continuously improve in every iteration.

  • Cross-functional

Agile teams are cross-functional in nature. To start with, as a team, they have all the required skills to deliver value incrementally. They don’t have to go out of their team to deliver value.

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As I mentioned above, to start with, the team being cross-functional is good enough. However, in the long run, just having a cross-functional team is not enough. It is critical to have every team member cross-functional. Every team member needs to move from I-skill to T-skill to PI skill to Comb skill. 

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Hence, in summary, a True Cross-functional team means a cross-functional team of cross-functional individuals.

  • Works in collaboration 

Agile teams work in continuous collaboration, and this collaboration is not only between the clients and developers but also between developers to ensure every team member is on the same page of progress. Besides, in an Agile team, team members work with their colleagues in other skilled areas, beyond their skills, to learn and develop new skills. Continuously doing this will enable them to be cross-functional.

Most of the time, the team members are co-located. However, post-Covid, the working environment has changed to remote working. Though they work remotely, they still collaborate through video conferencing, calls etc daily.

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They share learning with other team members and work towards the common goal of delivering valuable software. 

  • No hierarchy in place

Unlike traditional team structures, an Agile delivery team structure is non-hierarchical. The task is assigned to members according to their expertise and they have complete autonomy in the work they perform. Micromanagement is deemed redundant in an Agile team structure, and everyone is considered responsible for the work they are assigned to. Team members are self-organized and efficient in delivering the work within the scheduled time frame. 

Agile Team Structure

Let’s talk about the Agile Team Structure.

  1. Different types of Agile teams

Agile is nothing but 4 values and 12 principles. Any team that follows these values and principles will be considered as an Agile Team.

Here are different types of Agile teams

  1. Scrum Team
  2. Kanban Team
  3. ScrumBan Team

Scrum Framework is followed by 80-90% of the Agile teams, hence we will go a bit deeper on Scrum teams.

  1. Size of the Agile (Scrum) team

Scrum teams are small in nature, the team is typically a 5-11 member team including Scrum Master and Product Owner. It should not exceed 11 people. When it exceeds, split them into 2 teams to make it effective.

  1. Small the team, the better they are in self-organisation

It is recommended to have a team with a smaller size. A 6-7 member team is more cross-functional and self-organised than an 11-member team.

The reason for having a smaller team in size is to reduce the communication channels within the team. Look at the below picture to understand the complexity in communication when the team grows big.

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  1. Three Roles in a Scrum team

Scrum teams have 3 roles – Scrum Master, Product Owner and Developers. Each role is critical to the success of the Agile team. This is a typical structure in Scrum Team, which is one of the types of Agile teams.

Scrum Masters are the masters of Scrum and 

Now we will understand the basic difference between an Agile team and a traditional team:

Agile team vs Traditional Team

  1. The main factor that differentiates an Agile team from a traditional team is that Agile teams are self-directed and self-organised. They don’t have a hierarchical structure, thus every individual takes ownership of the work assigned to them and gets it done.
    In the traditional Waterfall method, there is a hierarchy, where the task is assigned by a manager and he looks over the entire operation.
  2. In waterfall, team members work in silos, they work more in a phased manner – requirement, design, development, testing, maintenance etc. In an Agile team structure, the team members are always quick to respond to changes and make improvisations to the product after each iteration. All the phases are done in each iteration incrementally.
  3. Team Structure in Waterfall is very silo-ed – UI development team, Backend development team, testing team, automation team etc. In Agile, the team has all the abilities within the team and become a cross-functional team.

To conclude, an agile development team structure is much more flexible than traditional methods and has proven to be more productive and efficient in taking accountability. 

Therefore an agile product management certification will not only help you to stay agile in your Agile workspace but also foster the spirit of an Agile team across your organisation. 

Attending SAFe Program Consultant certification will help you understand Agile and SAFe thoroughly. 

Who is referred to as Specialists in Agile teams?

Team members who carry a specific skill set in an Agile team, and perform work within their domain are called Specialists in agile teams. Having only specialist in the team means each team member is “I” skilled. Moving towards PI and Comb skill will help become specialist in multiple technical and product domain.

What are the roles in a Scrum team?

Scrum team has the following roles:
Product Owner
Scrum Master

What is the role of the product owner?

A product owner understands and translates the customer / user requirements into smaller requirements in user story format, shares it with the developers and ensures they are achieved during each iteration.