The Perfect Agile Team

In my soon to be released book, “Becoming a Catalyst, Scrum Master Edition,” I tell the story of a newly formed team working with Agile for the first time. This team had just experienced their first sprint together and, to put it gently, it didn’t go well. When the time came for the team to participate in the retrospective of their first sprint the list of “things to improve” far outweighed the list of “things we did well.” As the Scrum Master started capturing areas the team would like to work on during the next sprint one of the team members turned and said to me, “We are really screwed up.”

“No,” I responded, “you’re the perfect team.”

As a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, you (or your boss) may be putting pressure on yourself to have the “perfect” team. A team perfectly following your process. A team never having stories carry over to the next sprint. A team with a perfect burn-down chart. A team in perfect harmony. But real-life doesn’t work this way, does it? I am reminded of a quote from Jack White referenced in a post a while back. “When everything is perfect, nothing happens.”

Knowing perfection isn’t really the goal, let’s change our perspective when it comes to the amazing group of humans we call our team. The “perfect” Agile team is:

Thriving in chaos. I would recommend reading a blog post from my colleague, Si Alhir. His post discusses how organizations and teams can become “antifragile” based on the book by Naseem Taleb. Things will get chaotic and just adapting to change will not be enough given the rapid fluidity of today’s business conditions. Our normal reaction to chaos is more process or rigidity when in fact we may need less. Perfect teams find ways to become stronger in times of turbulence.

Somewhat stress-free. Because they are able to thrive in chaos, when stressors do come the team can handle it gracefully. There will always be spikes when stressful situations emerge but this shouldn’t become the norm. Just as continual stress can harm us physically over time the same holds true for your team. Perfect teams are aware of their overall health and adjust as necessary.

Connecting. If you are waiting for the perfect group of humans to be a part of your team, you will be waiting for a long time. Your team will be populated with diverse and probably eccentric people. Welcome this with open arms. Perfect teams embrace the uniqueness of each individual.

Self-healing. Living creatures throughout nature have an amazing ability to heal themselves when given the chance. When a group can recognize their own pain points, they can remove them quickly and often without outside intervention. Perfect teams give themselves the time and space to heal.

Delivering. And as they deliver, they are gaining confidence. As they are gaining confidence, the organization gains confidence in them. Perfect teams shy away from excuses, meet any resistance, and “do the work.”

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