Three Must-Have Traits for Agile Team Members

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Dur­ing our most recent Agile Orlan­do Lean Lunch meet­up, one inter­est­ing top­ic we dis­cussed was what ide­al traits a recruiter should be look­ing for to vet whether can­di­dates are good fits in an Agile envi­ron­ment and cul­ture. This nat­u­ral­ly evolved into a dis­cus­sion of com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tics we'd observed in suc­cess­ful team mem­bers on Agile projects. Beyond the obvi­ous tech­ni­cal or pro­fes­sion­al skills required for a par­tic­u­lar project, there are some key char­ac­ter traits and behav­iors that can mean the dif­fer­ence between adding (or your­self being) a rock star or just anoth­er run-of-the-mill team mem­ber.

  • Own­er­ship of your deliv­er­ables
    One dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion for team mem­bers jump­ing from tra­di­tion­al devel­op­ment teams (or not-actu­al­ly-Agile teams) to the Agile mind­set is the need for all team mem­bers to be own­ers. Each team mem­ber should feel respon­si­ble for the suc­cess of the work prod­uct being deliv­ered. The deliv­er­able is a result of every team member's effort. Team mem­bers who learn to embrace that own­er­ship and become invest­ed in the prod­uct begin to nat­u­ral­ly look for ways to improve the prod­uct, the process of devel­op­ing the prod­uct, and how to get the best out of their fel­low team mem­bers. Those who remain stuck in the grind of sim­ply work­ing and clos­ing tasks tend to remain stuck in their silos and dis­en­gaged from the team.
  • Engage­ment with­in the team
    A team mem­ber must be will­ing to engage with the team on a reg­u­lar, con­sis­tent basis. Many team mem­bers new to Agile mis­tak­en­ly assume the com­mon Dai­ly Standup is the lim­it of team engage­ment they need to wor­ry about. The Dai­ly Standup is seen as noth­ing more than a replace­ment for the tra­di­tion­al Sta­tus Report, albeit short­er and more fre­quent. The focus becomes "What sta­tus do I need to give?" rather than "What is every­one else work­ing on and are there any prob­lems I can help resolve?" A team mem­ber who is able to engage with the rest of the team is bet­ter able to build trust, know when their help might be ben­e­fi­cial to some­one stuck, and feel that they can depend on their fel­low team to help when need­ed.
  • Resilience and the will­ing­ness to fail
    Agile is an iter­a­tive process, built on the idea of try­ing things out, dis­card­ing the things that don't work, and keep­ing what does. Whether it's a new way of approach­ing a busi­ness process, a new tech­nol­o­gy stack, or a team cer­e­mo­ny to try, some­thing will inevitably not work the way you or your team hoped. A rock star team mem­ber learns what they can from this fail­ure and moves on to their next exper­i­ment, which could mean scrap­ping an idea com­plete­ly and or a sim­ple mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the pre­vi­ous exper­i­ment. Fail­ure is not some­thing to cel­e­brate, but nei­ther is it some­thing to shy away from. When team mem­bers meet with fail­ure of one sort or anoth­er, they should reflect on how they can avoid such a fail­ure in the future rather than dwelling on why and how it failed in the first place.

What oth­er traits have you noticed in the mem­bers who seem to excel in Agile envi­ron­ments?

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