by Nancy Couture

Tip No. 2: Create an enabling team structure

Dec 14, 2016
Agile DevelopmentIT Leadership

The second tip for successfully creating and leading agile data management development teams.

standup meeting

A key success factor in agile data management is self-managing teams. As a leader of self-managing teams, you need to develop a unique set of skills, moving from command and control to communication and enablement.

This is the second installment of my series entitled “Five Tips for Leading Agile Data Management Development Teams.” Here I discuss Tip No 2: Create an enabling team structure.

‘A’ players are a challenge

A self-managing team of “A” players is a challenging group to lead. They will continuously look for opportunities to learn and improve, will want to step up and make their own decisions, and will want to feel empowered to manage themselves. 

As their leader, you will need to ensure your team feels simultaneously empowered and supported. Here are some ways to encourage an environment that keeps these “A” players challenged, motivated and empowered.

  • Create a shared common vision — one that describes what the team is aspiring to. A vision provides direction and a sense of purpose that is shared across the team. It can enable a self-managing team to focus on the things that really matter and simplify decision-making.
  • Develop agreed-upon objectives, targets and work standards. By having a set of guidelines that are broad enough to enable creativity and innovation, the team can work with a supporting structure in place. 
  • Hire team members with diverse skill sets. This enables a self-managing team to share tasks as needed. It also creates some task interdependence so that team members are dependent on one another. This dependence eventually builds trust, which is a key factor to success.
  • Define roles within the team, although these can change as the team evolves. This provides a self-managing team with a supporting structure, but also the freedom to change as circumstances change.
  •  Ensure that the team is given goals that are challenging but doable.  “A” players will want to step up to the challenge. Successes will need to be earned, and the team will grow stronger.
  • Provide an environment that encourages self-improvement. “A” players will continuously look for opportunities to learn and improve. Without these, they will not stick with the team for very long. With these, they will continue to challenge themselves, which will also improve the team’s overall skill sets and abilities.
  • Keep the agile mindset, but modify it to fit the organizational and team culture. Ensure that the team keeps in mind that agile principles are guidelines that should not necessarily be followed strictly. As part of each release retrospective, and even in daily standup discussions, encourage the team to identify continuous improvement ideas and leverage them. It’s OK to try a new idea. Sprints are short cycles, so if an idea doesn’t work well, there’s opportunity to quickly shift back. Having this flexibility gives the self-managing team a sense of empowerment and accountability, and team members can continue to identify opportunities to improve. 

With the appropriate enabling team structure, you can provide the team with freedom within guidelines, and the self-managing team will flourish.

Pyramid with tips for leading self managing teams Nancy Couture

Click here to link to other articles in this blog series.